Doyle Online Writing Lab


One of the most crucial components of a paper's capacity to persuade is continuity. This means that the various points that constitute your paper's argument should be linked to one another logically and eloquently. A reader will receive the ideas put forth in a paragraph differently depending on whether they decide to treat it as a part of, or merely issuing forth from, the previous. It is a good idea to use "transitional tags" to indicate when you are moving on to a new idea and how the reader ought to interpret it in light of the previous one.

When someone (a friend, a professor, etc.) tells you that you need to use transitions it is usually because they are having a hard time following the outline of your argument. This is one reason why having a clear outline for your paper is so important (It is always a good idea to outline and re-outline throughout the writing process just to make sure that your paper is holding to some basic structure). Obviously your paper will be more thorough, eloquent, and well supported than the outline, but a reader should be able to look from one to the other and see a fundamental relationship. THEREFORE when moving from one idea to the next you want to indicate to the reader that you are doing so.

A student's thesis is: "In 'Song of Myself' Walt Whitman establishes an ironic liaison between nation and sexuality by his manipulation of visual form, meter, and diction."

The paper should seek to explore the broader topic - Whitman's commentary on nation and sexuality - in terms of the three poetic devices underlined above. The transitions used in this paper (in outline form) might look something like this:

I. Thesis: In "Song of Myself" Walt Whitman establishes an ironic liaison between nation and sexuality by his manipulation of visual form, meter, and diction.

II. Visual Form

A. (transition) Although Whitman was inarguably a man of letters he was well aware that poetry's rhetorical power derives not only from its verbal content, but from its visual presentation.




E. (final sentence) Clearly the manner in which Whitman establishes line breaks, in addition to the ostensibly arbitrary arrangement of words, gives "Song of Myself" a visual form that is representative of the violent chaos and appealing mysticism that is common to both emerging industrial society and contemporary views on sexuality.

III. Meter

A. (transition) Of course the chaotic appearance of Whitman's poem is only a surface quality: the manner in which Whitman manipulates meter is both systematic and precise.

And so on . . .

In short, an effective transition between the major supporting points of a paper will:

  1. refer to terms already established in the thesis
  2. refer to the previous sentence or idea discussed
  3. use a transitional tag (below)

The transitions you use to get from one idea to the next will vary depending on what kind of paper you are writing and what your stylistic preferences are. If you are unsure as to whether you have made an effective transition return to your thesis. Have you specified that you are addressing a particular supporting argument? Have you indicated why the new idea follows logically from the previous one? Have you made it very clear that you are discussing a new idea?

Examples of transitional tags (these words indicate that you are moving on to a new, though not unconnected, idea):

above all


and so










for example

for instance




in addition

in conclusion


in fact

in particular


in summary



more specifically



on the other hand










to sum up


in contrast

by comparison

to begin with

as illustrated above

as mentioned above

as we can see

we can see that

assuming that

these finding indicate

in this respect

in other words

in the light of


in contrast

Common grammatical problems encountered
with transitional tags

The words hence, however, indeed, then, and thus should be preceded by a semicolon and followed by a comma when used as transitions between the clauses of compound sentences. For example: "The proposition is not apparent in the first draft of Smith's manifesto; thus, we can only conclude that it was an afterthought."

The words yet and so are preceded by a comma when used as transitions between clauses. For example: "I couldn't find him anywhere, so I assumed he had left for lunch."

The tags also and as well are very close in meaning; however, the placement of these terms in a sentence is very different and crucial to the coherence of that sentence. It is advisable not to begin a sentence or paragraph with also: it just sounds better. For example:

"He also wanted us to buy some milk."
"Also he wanted us to buy some milk."

It is advisable not to begin a sentence or paragraph with as well. For example:

"He wanted us to buy some milk as well."
"He as well wanted us to buy some milk."
"As well he wanted us to buy some milk."

Also should not be used as a synonym for and: that is, it should not be used to join two clauses together into one sentence. For example:

"We decided to go to the movies and we stuck to that plan."
"We decided to go to the movies also we stuck to that plan."

The tags indeed and in fact should be used to punctuate a restatement or elaboration of an idea outlined in the previous sentence or paragraph. For example: "She is quite good at writing essays. In fact, she aspires to be a professional writer one day."

The combination not only . . . but also links two supporting points of an argument. It is not always necessary to use but also (usually, though, when it is not necessary a semicolon replaces it). For example:

"Not only was he a talented musician; he was also an able athlete."
"He was not only a talented musician, but also an able athlete."
"Not only was he a talented musician, he was also an able athlete."

(The last sentence becomes a run-on without the proper placement of a semi-colon.)

It is advisable not to begin a sentence or paragraph with due to. Due is an adjective (and therefore due to is an adjective phrase): it must always modify a noun. For example:

"Because I waited until the last minute to study, I did not perform well on the exam." OR
"My poor performance on the exam was due to inadequate study habits." (due to modifies "performance")
"Due to my having waited until the last minute to study, I did not perform well on the exam."

It is generally a good idea not to begin a sentence or paragraph with so: doing this often leads to the creation of sentence fragments. For example:

"She was extremely tired, so she decided to go to bed." NOT
"So she decided to go to bed, because she was extremely tired." (This sentence also demonstrates why you need not use so if because is already present in the sentence.)

For example and for instance are complete phrases and are usually set apart by commas. For example:

"Texas, for example, has approved several laws pertaining to this issue." NOT
"Texas for example has approved several laws pertaining to this issue."

Do not use in the way that as a synonym for in that. For example:

"She is graceful in that she dances gracefully." OR
"She is graceful in the way that she dances."
"She is graceful in the way that she dances gracefully."

Practice Sentences:

Connect the two sentences using an appropriate transitional sentence or term. Make certain that you use the proper form of punctuation when using transitional

1. James has never been a very skilled mathematician. _______________ he performed very well on Tuesday's exam.

2. In subduing both heart and mind and through the "unstringing of limbs", love renders both gods and men helpless, weak, usurping them of all strength and potency. Here lies the evil of just such a force, for without domination and authority, both gods and men alike are viewed as lacking any worth. This is the duality of Eros, the god of Love whose power lies in both creation and destruction.

___________ Love in Ancient Greece, as embodied in the deity of Eros, is an external force.

3.The image of being immersed in a deep mist is a Homeric one used frequently in the Iliad when a soldier is mortally wounded as Amaryngkeus is in Book IV when Peiros plunges his spear into his enemy and "a mist of darkness closed over both eyes"(IV. 525-26).

___________Finally, the poetry of Anacreon plays into the concept of Love as an evil plight of mankind.

4. Chicana literature has been kept under wraps for many years. ____________________ Last year there was a celebration of over 300 artists from California's Chicana population and the popularity of the poets and novelists in attendance was obvious.

5. My brother wanted to spend the day lounging by the sea. My father thought it would be nice to drive out to the desert for a change of scenery. My sister said that she would prefer to have a picnic in the park. _______________ We didn't go anywhere.

6. I was not in the mood to be around a lot of people, I was tired from a hard day at work, and all I wanted to do was sleep. Sam begged me to hang around for a while. ________________________ I left my friends at the bar and started to walk home.



The rules discussed above are only a fraction of those writers tend to forget about when using transitional tags. For more information and concise explanations of the above topics, check out the following sources:

LePan, Don. The Broadview Book of Common Errors in English. Lewiston, NY: Broadview Press, 1992. 76-90.

Trimble, John R. Writing With Style: Conversations on the Art of Writing. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1975. 37-54.