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Master the Five-Paragraph Essay

essay paragraph transition sentences

The five-paragraph essay is one of the most common composition assignments out there, whether for high school or college students. It is a classic assignment because it presents an arena in which writers can demonstrate their command of language and punctuation, as well as their logic and rhetorical skills. These skills are useful not only for classroom assignments and college application essays, but even in the business world, as employees have to write memorandums and reports, which draw on the same skills.

Mastering the five-paragraph essay is doable, and here are some tips.

Components of a Good Essay

The five-paragraph essay lives up to its name, because is has five paragraphs, as follows: an introductory paragraph that includes a thesis, three body paragraphs, each which includes support and development, and one concluding paragraph.

Its structure sometimes generates other names for the same essay, including three-tier essay, one-three-one, or a hamburger essay. Whether you are writing a cause-and-effect essay, a persuasive essay, an argumentative essay or a compare-and-contrast essay, you should use this same structure and the following specifics.

Keys to Introductory Paragraphs

Any introductory paragraph contains from three to five sentences and sets up the tone and structure for the whole essay. The first sentence should be a so-called hook sentence and grabs the reader. Examples of hook sentences include a quote, a joke, a rhetorical question or a shocking fact. This is the sentence that will keep your readers reading. Draw them in.

What Makes a Thesis Statement

The last sentence should be your thesis statement, which is the argument you are going to make in the essay. It is the sentence that contains the main point of the essay, or what you are trying to prove. It should be your strongest claim in the whole essay, telling the reader what the paper is about. You should be able to look back at it to keep your argument focused. The other sentences in this paragraph should be general information that links the first sentence and the thesis.

Content of Supporting Paragraphs

Each of the next three paragraphs follows the same general structure of the introductory paragraph. That is, they have one introduction sentence, evidence and arguments in three to five sentences, and a conclusion. Each one of them should define and defend your thesis sentence in the introduction.

The first body paragraph should be dedicated to proving your most powerful point. The second body paragraph can contain your weakest point, because the third body paragraph can, and should, support another strong argument.

Concluding Paragraph Tips

Your concluding paragraph is important, and can be difficult. Ideally, you can begin by restating your thesis. Then you can recall or restate all three to five of your supporting arguments. You should summarize each main point. If you have made similar arguments multiple times, join those together in one sentence.

Essentially, in the concluding or fifth paragraph, you should restate what your preceding paragraphs were about and draw a conclusion. It should answer the question: So what? Even if the answer seems obvious to you, write it down so that your reader can continue to easily follow your thinking process, and hopefully, agree with you.

A Note on Compare and Contrast

Let’s look a little more closely at the compare-and-contrast essay, which is a very common assignment. It can be a confusing one due to the terms used. Comparing two items is to show how they are alike. Contrasting two items is to show how they are different. One way to approach this essay is to make a grid for yourself that compares or contrasts two items before you start writing. Then, write about those characteristics. Do not try to write about both. The name of the essay is actually misleading.

Keep these pointers in mind when you need to write a five-paragraph essay, and your end result will be clear in its argument, leading your reader to the right conclusion. Often, that conclusion is to agree with you, and who doesn’t like to be right?


essay paragraph transition sentences

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


What this handout is about.

In this crazy, mixed-up world of ours, transitions glue our ideas and our essays together. This handout will introduce you to some useful transitional expressions and help you employ them effectively.

The function and importance of transitions

In both academic writing and professional writing, your goal is to convey information clearly and concisely, if not to convert the reader to your way of thinking. Transitions help you to achieve these goals by establishing logical connections between sentences, paragraphs, and sections of your papers. In other words, transitions tell readers what to do with the information you present to them. Whether single words, quick phrases, or full sentences, they function as signs that tell readers how to think about, organize, and react to old and new ideas as they read through what you have written.

Transitions signal relationships between ideas—relationships such as: “Another example coming up—stay alert!” or “Here’s an exception to my previous statement” or “Although this idea appears to be true, here’s the real story.” Basically, transitions provide the reader with directions for how to piece together your ideas into a logically coherent argument. Transitions are not just verbal decorations that embellish your paper by making it sound or read better. They are words with particular meanings that tell the reader to think and react in a particular way to your ideas. In providing the reader with these important cues, transitions help readers understand the logic of how your ideas fit together.

Signs that you might need to work on your transitions

How can you tell whether you need to work on your transitions? Here are some possible clues:


Since the clarity and effectiveness of your transitions will depend greatly on how well you have organized your paper, you may want to evaluate your paper’s organization before you work on transitions. In the margins of your draft, summarize in a word or short phrase what each paragraph is about or how it fits into your analysis as a whole. This exercise should help you to see the order of and connection between your ideas more clearly.

If after doing this exercise you find that you still have difficulty linking your ideas together in a coherent fashion, your problem may not be with transitions but with organization. For help in this area (and a more thorough explanation of the “reverse outlining” technique described in the previous paragraph), please see the Writing Center’s handout on organization .

How transitions work

The organization of your written work includes two elements: (1) the order in which you have chosen to present the different parts of your discussion or argument, and (2) the relationships you construct between these parts. Transitions cannot substitute for good organization, but they can make your organization clearer and easier to follow. Take a look at the following example:

El Pais , a Latin American country, has a new democratic government after having been a dictatorship for many years. Assume that you want to argue that El Pais is not as democratic as the conventional view would have us believe.

One way to effectively organize your argument would be to present the conventional view and then to provide the reader with your critical response to this view. So, in Paragraph A you would enumerate all the reasons that someone might consider El Pais highly democratic, while in Paragraph B you would refute these points. The transition that would establish the logical connection between these two key elements of your argument would indicate to the reader that the information in paragraph B contradicts the information in paragraph A. As a result, you might organize your argument, including the transition that links paragraph A with paragraph B, in the following manner:

Paragraph A: points that support the view that El Pais’s new government is very democratic.

Transition: Despite the previous arguments, there are many reasons to think that El Pais’s new government is not as democratic as typically believed.

Paragraph B: points that contradict the view that El Pais’s new government is very democratic.

In this case, the transition words “Despite the previous arguments,” suggest that the reader should not believe paragraph A and instead should consider the writer’s reasons for viewing El Pais’s democracy as suspect.

As the example suggests, transitions can help reinforce the underlying logic of your paper’s organization by providing the reader with essential information regarding the relationship between your ideas. In this way, transitions act as the glue that binds the components of your argument or discussion into a unified, coherent, and persuasive whole.

Types of transitions

Now that you have a general idea of how to go about developing effective transitions in your writing, let us briefly discuss the types of transitions your writing will use.

The types of transitions available to you are as diverse as the circumstances in which you need to use them. A transition can be a single word, a phrase, a sentence, or an entire paragraph. In each case, it functions the same way: First, the transition either directly summarizes the content of a preceding sentence, paragraph, or section or implies such a summary (by reminding the reader of what has come before). Then, it helps the reader anticipate or comprehend the new information that you wish to present.

Transitional expressions

Effectively constructing each transition often depends upon your ability to identify words or phrases that will indicate for the reader the kind of logical relationships you want to convey. The table below should make it easier for you to find these words or phrases. Whenever you have trouble finding a word, phrase, or sentence to serve as an effective transition, refer to the information in the table for assistance. Look in the left column of the table for the kind of logical relationship you are trying to express. Then look in the right column of the table for examples of words or phrases that express this logical relationship.

Keep in mind that each of these words or phrases may have a slightly different meaning. Consult a dictionary or writer’s handbook if you are unsure of the exact meaning of a word or phrase.

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Transition Sentences | Tips & Examples for Clear Writing

Published on June 9, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on December 6, 2021.

Clear transitions are crucial to clear writing: They show the reader how different parts of your essay, paper, or thesis are connected. Transition sentences can be used to structure your text and link together paragraphs or sections.

… In this case, the researchers concluded that the method was unreliable.

However , evidence from a more recent study points to a different conclusion . …

Table of contents

Transitioning between paragraphs, transitioning to a new section, transitions within a paragraph.

When you start a new paragraph , the first sentence should clearly express:

The examples below show some examples of transition sentences between paragraphs and what they express.

Placement of transition sentences

The beginning of a new paragraph is generally the right place for a transition sentence. Each paragraph should focus on one topic, so avoid spending time at the end of a paragraph explaining the theme of the next one.

The first dissenter to consider is …

However, several scholars dissent from this consensus. The first one to consider is …

While transitions between paragraphs are generally a single sentence, when you start a new section in a longer text, you may need an entire transition paragraph. Transitioning to a new section involves summarizing the content of the previous section and expressing how the new one will build upon or depart from it.

For example, the following sentences might be an effective transition for a new section in a literary analysis essay.

Having established that the subjective experience of time is one of Mann’s key concerns in The Magic Mountain , it is now possible to explore how this theme facilitates the novel’s connection with World War I. The war itself is not narrated in the book, but rather hinted at as something awaiting Castorp beyond the final pages. In this way, Mann links his protagonist’s subjective experience of time to more than just his illness; it is also used to explore the period leading up to the outbreak of war.

As in academic writing generally, aim to be as concise as you can while maintaining clarity: If you can transition to a new section clearly with a single sentence, do so, but use more when necessary.

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essay paragraph transition sentences

It’s also important to use effective transitions within each paragraph you write, leading the reader through your arguments efficiently and avoiding ambiguity.

The known-new contract

The order of information within each of your sentences is important to the cohesion of your text. The known-new contract , a useful writing concept, states that a new sentence should generally begin with some reference to information from the previous sentence, and then go on to connect it to new information.

In the following example, the second sentence doesn’t follow very clearly from the first. The connection only becomes clear when we reach the end.

By reordering the information in the second sentence so that it begins with a reference to the first, we can help the reader follow our argument more smoothly.

Note that the known-new contract is just a general guideline. Not every sentence needs to be structured this way, but it’s a useful technique if you’re struggling to make your sentences cohere.

Transition words and phrases

Using appropriate transition words helps show your reader connections within and between sentences. Transition words and phrases come in four main types:

The table below gives a few examples for each type:

Grouping similar information

While transition words and phrases are essential, and every essay will contain at least some of them, it’s also important to avoid overusing them. One way to do this is by grouping similar information together so that fewer transitions are needed.

For example, the following text uses three transition words and jumps back and forth between ideas. This makes it repetitive and difficult to follow.

Rewriting it to group similar information allows us to use just one transition, making the text more concise and readable.

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How to Use Transition Sentences for Smoother Writing

Lindsay Kramer

​​In most instances, your writing follows a logical path from your introduction to your conclusion, stopping at various supporting points along the way. Transition sentences enable your writing to progress down this path in a clear, logical manner. 

Transition sentences, as their name implies, express the transitions between thoughts that link them together. They’re the segues that communicate the how, when, where, why, and other relationships you explore in your writing as you move from the introduction to the conclusion , incorporating all relevant supporting points along the way. 

Here’s a tip: Want to make sure your writing shines? Grammarly can check your spelling and save you from grammar and punctuation mistakes. It even proofreads your text, so your work is extra polished wherever you write.

Your writing, at its best Grammarly helps you communicate confidently Write with Grammarly

What are transition sentences?

Transition sentences are the sentences that show the relationship between two or more ideas. Think of them as bridges, tunnels, and merges that connect different sections of your work , with specific words and phrases acting as road signs. Take a look at this example:

In this example, the middle sentence is the transition sentence. Try reading the first and third sentences in direct succession, skipping over the transition sentence. They make sense, but without that middle sentence, the statement, as a whole, is significantly less impactful. 

What makes a good transition sentence?

A good transition sentence is one that makes the relationship between the ideas it’s linking absolutely clear . It’s one of the most important tools in your writing toolkit because no matter what you’re writing—or whether you’re working on a short story , a blog post , a news article, or a lengthy academic work —being able to express your ideas in a clear way that your reader understands is key. 

The best transition sentence to use in a given situation depends on what you need to communicate. For example, if you need to communicate a point that contradicts your previous statement, an effective transition sentence is one that includes a word or phrase such as however , despite this/that , in contrast , or nonetheless . Take a look at these examples:

Transition sentences do more than buffer contradictory statements, though. They also express similarities , sequences , emphasis , position , examples , and cause-and-effect relationships . Here are a few more examples of transition sentences at work: 

Useful words and phrases for transition sentences

So what actually turns regular sentences into transition sentences? Transition words .  

Transition words and phrases are the road signs we mentioned earlier that direct your writing’s flow from one thought to the next. The transition word you choose for a sentence is critical to your reader’s ability to understand your writing because in many cases, otherwise identical sentences can have very different meanings if they have different transition words. Here are quick examples of how word choice can transform one idea: 

See how our example foodies’ point changed dramatically just by swapping out the transition words and phrases? Take a look at the most commonly used transition words and phrases for specific transitions:

Transition words and phrases to communicate similarities

Transition words and phrases to express emphasis

Transition words and phrases to demonstrate cause and effect

Transition words and phrases to denote position

Transition words and phrases to illustrate a sequence

Transition words and phrases to show examples

Transition sentences between paragraphs

Beyond writing strong sentences by using transition words and phrases, you can harness these valuable tools to write more effective paragraphs . Generally, the ideal place for a transition sentence is the beginning of a paragraph because this is where you explain new information’s relevance. Your transition sentence should do two things: introduce its paragraph’s topic and give it context within your piece as a whole. 

Take a look at this example of a strong transition sentence between paragraphs:

We hiked all day. After a few hours, my friend, my dog, and I all started to feel weary, taking more frequent rests than we’d taken at the beginning of the hike. But once we caught a glimpse of the mountain’s peak, we felt rejuvenated and powered through the last leg of the way up. We’d spent months planning this trip, and now we were finally there.

After we reached the peak, it was time to decide the best way to go back down the mountain. Somehow, it felt anticlimactic—months and months planning this hike, visualizing ourselves standing atop the tallest mountain we’d hiked to date and now, standing in that position, all I felt was the exhaustion I knew would come with maneuvering our way back down and out of the woods as the sun set.  

In the example above, the use of “after” to initiate the transition creates a contextual contrast between the general ideas in each paragraph. Keep in mind, the kinds of transition words and phrases that work within paragraphs aren’t always the ones that work best to transition between paragraphs. For example, starting off a new paragraph with a word like “therefore” or “similarly” usually can’t introduce the following information sufficiently. 

Transition sentences between sections

Just as transition sentences make the progress from one paragraph to the next more coherent, transition sentences also bridge larger sections of your writing. In some cases, you may need more than just a sentence to transition from one section to the next. These broader transition sentences and paragraphs serve a similar purpose to the transitions between paragraphs: to link the concepts explored in consecutive sections of your writing. 

Take a look at these transition sentences and how they can be used to guide a reader through large sections of your work:

By 2018, it was apparent that we lagged behind our competitors in one key area: providing self-serve checkouts. Every other big-name service center utilizes this kind of system and has seen an increase in sales and in-store efficiency once implementing it. 

Now that we’ve upgraded every service center to the new, fully self-serve system, our company is weighing which large-scale project is most pressing to complete over the next year. There are a few areas with significant room for improvement, each of which comes with its own unique challenges. 

One area of interest is employee retention. Currently, we have a similar turnover rate to our competitors, which costs the company millions in training and other onboarding costs every year. Lowering our turnover rate would reduce this expense, but exactly how much we can realistically lower our turnover rate is yet to be seen. Another key area our team identified as having room for improvement is our online presence. We have identified potential strategies for increasing our online presence as well as potential hurdles that could arise, which we’ll cover in detail in the following paragraphs. 

Transition sentences within paragraphs

As we mentioned earlier, the transition sentences you’d use to introduce new paragraphs usually aren’t the ones you use to transition from sentence to sentence within a paragraph. These sentences have a much narrower scope and work best for tighter transitions, such as comparing details about ideas rather than comparing the ideas themselves. 

Transition sentences are crucial within paragraphs. Take a look at how a paragraph would read without transition sentences:

The best days of my childhood were the days I spent up at my grandparents’ cabin on the lake. I learned how to swim. My grandfather took me to a small, shallow cove where I practiced all the basics. I was a confident swimmer.

Choppy and awkward, right? Now see how transition sentences make it make sense:

The best days of my childhood were the days I spent up at my grandparents’ cabin on the lake. That’s where I learned how to swim. Every afternoon, my grandfather took me to a small, shallow cove where I practiced all the basics. By the time I was eight, I was a confident swimmer.

Fit every word and phrase into your writing with ease

Transition sentences are one of the keys to smooth, flowing writing. When you’re not sure if the transition sentence you’ve chosen is the right one for your work, Grammarly can help. Our writing suggestions catch spelling and syntax mistakes and grammatical errors and can even detect the tones present in your writing. When the word you chose isn’t the right one for the point you’re making, Grammarly can suggest one that is. 

essay paragraph transition sentences


Transitions between paragraphs.

While within-paragraph transitions serve the purpose of alerting readers of upcoming shifts in perspective or voice , between-paragraph transitions serve the unique purpose of alerting readers of upcoming shifts in argument or idea . Because one of the core rules of effective paragraph-writing is limiting each paragraph to only one controlling idea (see the Basic Paragraph Resource Center lesson), shifts in argument or idea only tend to happen between paragraphs within the academic essay.

There are literally dozens of transition words to choose from when shifting focus from one idea to another. There are transition words that show cause and effect, contrast, similarity, emphasis, and even sequence. To give you a general idea of the options available to you, below are examples of just a few of those categories and word combinations:

This is a table of Transition Words in English. Transition Words of Emphasis: undoubtedly, unquestionably, obviously, especially, clearly, importantly, absolutely, definitely, without a doubt, indeed, and it should be noted. Transition Words of Addition: along with, apart from this, moreover, furthermore, also, too, as well as that, besides, in addition. Transition Words of Contrast: unlike, nevertheless, on the other hand, nonetheless, contrary to, whereas, alternatively, conversely, even so, differing from. Transition Words of Order: following, at this time, previously, finally, subsequently, above all, before.

With so many available options, you may be wondering how you will ever be able to figure out which word or set of words would work best where.

Guiding Questions

While there are many approaches you could take, let’s take a look at a few basic guiding questions you should be asking yourself as you look over your own essay and create your own between-paragraph transitions:

Your answer to these four basic questions should help you more easily identify which categories of transition words might work best at the beginning of each of your paragraphs.

A Couple Tips to Get Started

Selecting proper transitions takes time and practice. To get you started on the right foot though, here are a couple tips to point you in the right direction:

To see the power of an appropriately-used transition in action, let’s consider the following prompt question example. Imagine you were asked to write an essay based on the following prompt:

A possible thesis statement (or answer to that prompt question) might be::

Ponder and Record

Body Paragraph Transitions

In answering the questions above, you likely realized that three body paragraphs will be required in this essay based on its current thesis statement. One body paragraph will focus on “spiritual” findings, another on “secular,” and then finally one supported by “personal experience.”

You also likely realized that the Addition transition word category cannot be applied to the first body paragraph as no arguments have been made yet that can be added to. This means that the first body paragraph would likely benefit most from a transition word selected from the Order category. An example of this in application might look like the following:

Body Paragraph #1 Topic Sentence

Above all, my spiritual study of the scriptures as well as the words of latter-day prophets have supported my belief that life callings emerge at the intersection of spiritual gifts and need in the world.

To see more “between-paragraph” transition words in action, let’s look at what the next body paragraph topic sentence might look like with the added benefit of transition words:

Body Paragraph #2 Topic Sentence

In addition to my spiritual study, my secular study of the “life calling” also supports this idea that life callings emerge again and again at the intersection of spiritual gifts and need in the world.

To really emphasize the value-add of between-paragraph transitions, let’s look at one final body paragraph example:

Body Paragraph #3 Topic Sentence

Finally, my own life experience has taught me that the concept of the “life calling” truly does lie at the intersection of gifts and need in the world.

Concluding Paragraph

As mentioned above, the category of transition words that would most benefit your concluding paragraph is Emphasis . Since one of the main purposes of the concluding paragraph is to revisit ideas shared within the essay, transition words that express emphasis would be a natural fit and value-add. To see the power of this addition, feel free to examine the example below:

Concluding Paragraph Example

Without a doubt, I have come to realize over the years that a life calling is so much more than simply acting on a single moment in time— it is developing gifts and talents and constantly reassessing what value-add those gifts and talents can bring to the world at that particular moment.

Within-paragraph and between-paragraph transitions are truly the best ways to alert readers to upcoming changes in perspective and voice as well as argument or idea. As you write and then review your own writing, really try to consider which transition words would best help you create the most powerful and organized experience for your readers.

Touro University Writing Center

Transitional Words

Transitional words are like bridges between parts of your essay. They are cues that help the reader interpret your ideas. Transitional words or phrases help carry your thoughts forward from one sentence to another and one paragraph to another. Finally, transitional words link sentences and paragraphs together smoothly so that there are no abrupt jumps or breaks between ideas.

Here is a list of common transitional words and the categories to which they belong.

and, again, and then, besides, equally important, finally, further, furthermore, nor, too, next, lastly, what's more, moreover, in addition, first (second, etc.)

To Compare:

whereas, but, yet, on the other hand, however, nevertheless, on the contrary, by comparison, where, compared to, up against, balanced against, vis a vis, but, although, conversely, meanwhile, after all, in contrast, although this may be true

because, for, since, for the same reason, obviously, evidently, furthermore, moreover, besides, indeed, in fact, in addition, in any case, that is

To Show Exception:

yet, still, however, nevertheless, in spite of, despite, of course, once in a while, sometimes

To Show Time:

immediately, thereafter, soon, after a few hours, finally, then, later, previously, formerly, first (second, etc.), next, and then

in brief, as I have said, as I have noted, as has been noted

To Emphasize:

definitely, extremely, obviously, in fact, indeed, in any case, absolutely, positively, naturally, surprisingly, always, forever, perennially, eternally, never, emphatically, unquestionably, without a doubt, certainly, undeniably, without reservation

To Show Sequence:

first, second, third, and so forth, next, then, following this, at this time, now, at this point, after, afterward, subsequently, finally, consequently, previously, before this, simultaneously, concurrently, thus, therefore, hence, next, and then, soon

To Give an Example:

for example, for instance, in this case, in another case, on this occasion, in this situation, take the case of, to demonstrate, to illustrate, as an illustration

To Summarize or Conclude:

in brief, on the whole, summing up, to conclude, in conclusion, as I have shown, as I have said, hence, therefore, accordingly, thus, as a result, consequently


How to Write a Great Transition Sentence

We’ll cover what good transition sentences look like and how to write a great transition sentence in your college essay.

I really like Thai food. Speaking of which, I just started an amazing documentary series on national parks. Speaking of which, the Pacific Ocean is beautiful in winter. Which makes me wonder how confused you feel right now.

You’re probably pretty confused. And if you thought we wrote the above seriously, you’d maybe not trust us a whole lot (as writers) heading forward.

Those two things (avoiding confusion, building trust) are great qualities to develop in your writing.

By building better transitions. 

In this post, we’ll cover: 

What good transitions look like

Why good transitions are important

Why building trust with your reader is important

Two ways to earn your reader’s trust

A quick diagnostic tool to determine if your transitions really are the issue

When’s the best time to start over/brainstorm new ideas

9 different transition techniques

What good transition sentences look like

To get a clear sense of why good transitions are important, read the body paragraphs in the “ Builder and Problem-Solver ” essay without reading the bolded parts .

Take a second to actually do this.

How lost do you feel?

Now read the transition sentences in the “ Builder and Problem-Solver ” essay (the ones in bold). 

Way clearer now, right? And do you see how, even if you only read those bolded sentences, you can kinda’ still see where the essay is going? That’s what good transitions can do.

Imagine your personal statement is a map that guides the reader—in the case of the admission reader, a stranger—through the territory of you. Think for a minute from that stranger’s perspective—out in the wilderness, trying to navigate the twists and turns of your heart and brain, with just this map. 

Part of your job as a writer is to metaphorically put your hand on the readers’ shoulder and say, “I got you.” To build trust.

Why do you want to build trust with your reader? Because if they don’t trust that your essay is going somewhere informative, or interesting, they might start skimming.

Two ways to build trust with your reader

Below are two ways—and neither is “better,” by the way; both work great.

Option A: Provide a clear map at the start.

Here’s an example intro from an essay that does this:

Lola the lamb. Diego the snake. Jack the Dog. Nutmeg the rabbit. And a Bearded Dragon named Zigzag. No, these aren’t weird titles for kids books. These are actually some of my greatest teachers. But why have I grown up with such a diverse cast? For many reasons, my connection and experiences with these animals have been a major part of shaping who I am today . 

Reading this, we can pretty much tell that this essay is going to be about how animals have shaped the author. We’ve bolded the “map” so it’s super clear.

But you don’t have to provide such a clear map at the start if you give clear signposts along the way. 

So here’s another possibility:

Option B: Draw us in with a creative opening, then provide clear signposts (i.e., transitions) to guide us along the way.

For a list of 9 creative ways to start your essay, click here . But if you choose a more creative opening, your transitions may be even more important. Why?

Check out the “Poop, Animals, and the Environment” essay at this link . The opening reads: 

I have been pooped on many times. I mean this in the most literal sense possible. I have been pooped on by pigeons and possums, house finches and hawks, egrets and eastern grays.

At the start, it’s not quite clear where we’re going. Check out the next sentences:

I don’t mind it, either. For that matter, I also don’t mind being pecked at, hissed at, scratched and bitten—and believe me, I have experienced them all.

Still not 100% clear. Is this an essay about working with animals? Sort of. For a while. But then it turns out to be about something else (environmentalism). But this essay works because the transitions—which we’ve highlighted in bold at this link —guide us through the twists and turns of the essay.

The takeaway for this section: Again, part of your job as a writer is to let the reader know they can trust you. You can do this by a) providing a clear map at the start, b) using clear signposts/transitions along the way, or c) both.

This guide will show you a few different options for setting up your signposts/transitions.

But before we show you different transition options, it’s first worth doing a quick diagnosis to make sure your transitions really are the issue.

The Flow Diagnostic: How to know if your transitions are really the issue

Why are we talking about this?

Because one of the most common mistakes students make is thinking that they only need to tweak the transitions (when they actually need to do more). 

To explain using that map analogy: Sometimes, the problem is that you forgot to tell your reader/stranger to take a left at the fork (with a clearer transition). Other times, the problem is that the territory of you that you’re discussing isn’t even on the same map, in which case you may want to consider either a larger restructuring or (honestly) a new topic.

So how do you diagnose if what you need to tweak is only (or mostly) your transitions?

The Flow Diagnostic: Can you outline your essay from memory?

This short exercise takes about 10 minutes, and you can do it either with another person or on your own.

How to do this with another person: 

Without looking at your essay, tell that person your essay. 

Have them take notes on what you're saying. 

When you’re done, have them tell it back to you. 

Is it clear? If so, maybe you just need to tweak the transitions. 

If one or both of you are confused, talk it out until a) each idea is clear, and b) the connection between the ideas are clear. Bullet point them. Then you should have your new transitions.

At that point, try writing a new outline using those bullet points and THEN writing a new draft.

Important: Write your new outline from scratch (based on the new flow) and write your new draft from scratch too. (It’s sometimes hard to let go of a previous draft, but trust me that it’ll likely be faster and lead to a better essay if you do this.)

Then come back to this post if you need to.

How to do this by yourself: 

Record yourself talking through your essay—again, without actually looking at it. (Tip: Use the voice memo feature on your phone, if you have one.)

Listen back to yourself, then create a bullet-point outline of the separate ideas/chunks/story “beats” of your essay.

You may be surprised at how just doing this can help clarify the flow of your ideas. 

Also notice: How much of what you said was actually in your previous essay draft? And how much was in your mind, but not yet in your essay?

Looking back at what you wrote down, see if you can split your story into 5-8 chunks. These will become the sections of your essay, and maybe even your paragraphs. (Note that if you have 8 or more “chunks,” your paragraphs will have to be pretty short.)

Here’s an example for the “ Poop, Animals, and the Environment ” essay above: 

When I’m working with animals, I know their health and welfare is completely in my hands

That’s why I worked at the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley over the summer

But when it was over, I felt there was more to do, and I had some responsibility to do it.

That’s what also pushes me toward environmental activism...

Sometimes I have mixed/complex feelings around that, but...

Ultimately, I feel I have to keep going. 

When’s the best time to start over/brainstorm new ideas?

If this works (or starts to work) for you, great! It could be that your transitions are the issue. Keep reading below for ideas on making those transitions work.

If this does not at all work for you, it may be worth brainstorming new topic ideas. Why?

The best time to try a new idea is right now. Because right now, you’ll have more time than you’ll ever have to make something new work.

Click here for some brainstorming exercises.

All that said, here are ...

9 transition techniques (and what they’re useful for)

1. the “what i did next” transition.

As its name implies, this approach uses language that directly sets up for the reader what you did next. It will generally use some phrasing that sets up the chronological relationship to where we’ve been so far, and frequently discusses how the focus of the previous paragraph played into your new focus.

A great example of this is the “ Builder and Problem-Solver ” essay referenced above. Notice how the transitions help us follow, in a chronological way, the author’s journey from problem-solver to lock-picker to art-maker to coder. The transitions provide signposts guiding us along the way.

For another good example of this, check out the “ Makeup ” essay. Again, notice how the author guides us through the body using clear transitions.

Slight Variation: “The Steps I Took to Solve a Problem” Approach

This variation takes a similar approach, but uses language that clarifies how each paragraph is the next step in pursuit of a particular solution (generally, to a problem that themes the essay).

For an example, check out the “ Does Every Life Matter? ” essay. Note that the twists and turns are mostly in pursuit of the author’s attempt to solve the problem/answer the question he raises at the start of the essay.

2. The “Steps I Took to Level Up” Transition

Like the “What I Did Next” transition, this approach will generally use language that indicates progress/relationship in time to what came prior (e.g., “I began to …”), but this one focuses on how what you did next helped you build on what you’d done previously, showing how you’ve grown, gained skills and insights … and leveled up.

Notice how in the “ Flying ” essay, for example, these three transition sentences help us see how the paragraphs act in a chain, with each presenting a way in which the author is expanding in complexity, skill, and insight: “I began to challenge myself academically” + “I also elected to participate in my school’s engineering pathway” + “Most of all, I sought to solve problems that impact the real world.”

3. The “Connecting Back to Your Topic” Transition

With this approach, you establish your central topic, then connect back to it in your transition sentences.

Notice in the “ Translating ” essay, for example, how each transition sentence connects back to the central theme: 

“Translation means reinterpreting my Calculus teacher’s description of L’hospital’s rule into a useful tool for solving the limits.”

“My talent for translating also applies to my role as a ‘therapist’ for my family and friends.”

“My knack for translating has led me to become a real-life Korean language translator.” 

4. The “That Last Thing Mattered in This Way ...” Transition

This transition is, essentially, the basic form of just about all the other transitions in this guide. For example, the “What I Did Next” or “Leveling Up” approaches are more specific versions of “That Last Thing Mattered in This Way,” but provide your reader with a more specific connection. We’re adding this “That Last Thing” technique as a catch-all: in the somewhat rare case that none of the other approaches here work for you, it’s virtually guaranteed this one has you covered.

To illustrate: in the “ 12 ” essay, for example, the author uses “That secret desire manifested itself in different ways” and “That view held sway until a conversation with my friend Alex, the fastest receiver on the team” to give us as readers an anchorpoint. And while what he gets into in the paragraphs contains elements of growth and what he did next, the focus and function of these are different. For example, the latter example is used to set up a pivotal shift in perception.

(Side note on usage: it’s useful to note that these transitions could probably have come at the ends of the previous paragraphs, or at the beginning, as they do.)

Want some guidance on your college applications?

Schedule a meeting to work with my team., 5. the “chapter heading/mission impossible/quentin tarantino” transition.

This approach essentially uses section headers to help a reader understand one piece in relation to another, whether that’s simple chronology (“Day 4,” “February 2020”), or something that puts a container around the text that follows (“Chapter 1: The Realization About My Family”), or something that plays off the thematic thread (see “This is me”).

There are many ways to do this, and one of our favorites examples is the “ This Is Me ” essay, which uses different identities—“I am Mexican,” “I am Chinese,” “I am American,” etc.—as transitions. Other examples include the “ Quattro Lingue ” essay (“Day 1,” “Day 3,” “Day 6,” etc.) and the “ Arab Spring in Bahrain ” essay (“February 2011,” “September 2013,” etc.). 

6. The Zoom-In Transition

With this approach, your next paragraph is a more in-depth exploration of something you just discussed in a broader way. You build a sentence that uses language clarifying what aspect you’ll be zooming in on (and maybe why).

For example, check out this excerpt from a student essay (we’ve bolded the Zoom-In):

Chapter 2: The Realization about My Father When I was 12 years old I began to explore a variety of new communities, including indie punk rock, existentialism, YouTube gaming, and Quotev storytelling.  One community in particular that impacted me was the LGBTQ community. I remember watching a number of “coming out” videos and listening to people’s experiences coming to terms with their identity. The more I listened, the more I grew to understand the discrimination they faced. Seeing their struggles, I became inspired to increase my online advocacy in small ways…

Notice how that transition sets her up nicely to shift into a more focused discussion of specific ways a community has shaped her values and understanding. That’s an added bonus of this transition: To use it well, you have to be getting more specific (which, as a general rule, is a great thing in essay writing).

Also notice that she uses the “Chapter Heading” approach as well to set up the wider map of the essay for the reader.

7. The “But That’s Not the Only Example of This Thing I Just Talked about ...” Transition  

We know that name sounds crazy specific, but that’s because this approach kinda’ is. It works particularly well at the start of your essay (say, after the opening paragraph) to transition from a) a specific example of a thing to b) another example of a thing. Often, you’ll state the theme of the essay explicitly, helping to build in the reader’s mind the “map” we mentioned earlier. 

A simple example of this might be a student who opens the essay showing an example of when listening was important in their life. The transition might be something like, “That’s not the only time listening led me to changing my mind about something,” signaling that we’re about to hear about other times that listening led to a shift in the author’s perspective.

You’ll find another example in the “ Happiness Spreadsheet ” essay, where the author begins with a few specific descriptions of how he tracks his happiness on a daily basis on a spreadsheet. He then transitions at the end of his first paragraph with, “But the practical aspect of the spreadsheet is only a piece of what it has represented in my life” and—boom—the words “only a piece” signals that this essay is likely to be about how the spreadsheet connects to other parts of his life.

8. Slightly More Advanced: The “Okay, Now I’m Gonna’ Switch Topics” Transition

This one works if you start with one topic but then want to either switch to something more interesting, expansive, or insightful, or honestly, just maybe don’t have enough to say about your first topic. (Heads up: this one is a little tricky to pull off, and takes a bit more time to craft well and make work.)

You’ll find an example of this in the “ Poop, Animals and the Environment ” essay mentioned above, which begins by describing the author’s engagement with animal welfare. But part way through, the author essentially switches to a whole different topic—environmentalism—with this transition: “I couldn’t just abandon them the same way I couldn’t let big oil companies completely devastate the Arctic, earth’s air conditioner.” taking us in a new direction. While this might be a bit jarring to some, the author works to justify it by linking through both their values and the link to animal welfare (“wiping out ocean life”).

Another example of this is the “ Entoptic Phenomenon ” essay.

9. Slightly More Advanced: The Thematic/Threaded Transition

A more advanced technique (as in, one that requires a little more time and energy to use effectively) involves using a single word to set up the thread between paragraphs. This has to be done in a way that makes it obvious for the reader what you’re doing, while still feeling subtle (which is why it sometimes takes longer to do well).

For example, in the “ Home ” essay, the first, second, and fourth paragraphs all end with the word “home.” The third doesn’t to avoid feeling repetitive. The author had to do this because she wanted to end with her intro (which is also an advanced technique; for more on that, see 10 Ways to End a Personal Statement ). She also spent several drafts experimenting.

What to do next

If you haven’t already, run through that diagnostic toward the beginning to figure out if it’s just the transitions that need to be fixed, or if there are bigger issues to address.

Once you’ve done that, and, assuming it’s just the transitions, once you’ve used some of the techniques above to help your reader orient on the map of you that is your essay, you’re hopefully getting pretty close to set. To check, take a look at the Great College Essay Test .

Looking for more tips for writing the personal statement? Head over to my Ultimate Guide to Writing a College Essay .

Another great read: College Application & Admissions Timeline (AKA What Should I be Doing Right Now?)

essay paragraph transition sentences

Paragraph Transitions

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Transition Sentences

No transition: In some cultures sympathy plays a role in moral decision-making. Weaker transition: However, conflicts between principle and emotion more often occur when there is a conflict between the moral values of different cultures. Stronger transition: While conflict between morality and sympathy can occur in the context of a single cultural code, it more often arises in cross-cultural conflicts.
Weaker transition: Even if this is wrong, relativism does not necessarily promote human well-being and justice. Stronger transition: Even if a society is able to collectively define its culture and establish its own moral code, relativism does not necessarily promote human well-being and justice.

Here is an extended example taken from an actual student essay:

And who are you asking me to act as if I did not know the face of this calm sea and its still waves?  Do you ask me to trust this monster?

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Transition Words: Examples In Sentences, Paragraphs & Essays

transition words in a sentence

Transitional words and phrases help make a piece of writing flow better and connect one idea to the next. Because there's more than one way to connect ideas, there are many types of transitional phrases to show a variety of relationships. View several transition words and examples of phrases used in sentences, paragraphs and essays.

What Are Transitional Words and Phrases?

So, what are transition words? Well, transition words work to connect thoughts, sentences and paragraphs together. Transition words are important within a sentence or paragraph because they allow your arguments to flow seamlessly from one sentence or thought to another. When introducing transition words , the most basic transition words are conjunctions that join words, phrases or clauses together. For example, words like and , but and or can connect two sentences together.

As you can see in the examples above, even simple conjunctions serve different purposes. Knowing the different categories of transition words , which you'll see below, will help you choose the ones that best get your point across.

Other transition words are adverbs that describe the way an action is performed or how it relates to another idea.

Paragraph Example With Transition Words

Simple transition words don’t just work on a singular sentence level. They can work to bring together an entire paragraph. Read through the paragraph without transition words. Then, look at the same paragraph with transition words added. Do you see how the example without transition words is choppy and abrupt? Transition words help your thoughts flow from one idea to the next and connect sentences for conciseness.

Types of Transition Words and Phrases

There are several types of transition words and phrases, and each category helps the reader to make certain connections. Some signal the building of an idea, while others help readers compare ideas or draw conclusions. Here is a list of transition words and common transition sentence examples.

list of transition words

List of transition words

Types of transitions in writing.

When it comes to the creation of essays and papers, using transitions becomes more important. You need to use transitions within and between sentences, to connect paragraphs and to connect whole sections of an essay. See how transition words and phrases work to connect sentences, paragraphs and sections through examples.

Transitions Within Sentences

Transition words can be used to connect thoughts within a sentence. This transition highlights chronology or the order in which events occurred. Check out these transition word examples.

Transition Words Between Paragraphs

When transitions are used between paragraphs, they are often in the form of a phrase or clause that refers to the previous information while introducing a new idea. These transitions often come at the beginning of new paragraphs. See how this works by exploring these transition sentence examples.

Examine how this works through a longer paragraph example. Notice how the transition words and phrases make the flow from one paragraph to the next seamless.

Lastly , the effect poverty has on education needs to be examined. Many students below the poverty line do not have access to transportation and other resources that allow them to take advantage of school of choice. Additionally , the services available through programs within their area are lacking. It follows logically that these students lack access to quality education and services students in middle class homes have. As you can see , poverty can have an impact on several aspects of an individual’s life. Not only does it impact their work and home life, but their education as well. Therefore , as a community, it’s pivotal to provide advanced services and assistance to individuals in lower-income areas.

Transitions Between Sections

When writing a longer essay or research paper, it’s important to use transitions to link one section to another. Not only do you use transition words to create this section, but the paragraph itself is a transitional paragraph. Here's what a transition paragraph might look like.

In the previous section, this study explored the demographics of the Chicago, Illinois area. Understanding the diversity of the population throughout the area is particularly important to dissecting the implementation of after-school programs. In the following paragraphs, the study will consider the importance demographics play in understanding the need-based programs.

Using Transition Words

If you want a quick reference guide for using transition words in sentences, paragraphs and papers, this infographic is the perfect tool.

transition words examples infographic

Signs You Need Transition Words

When students start out as writers, it can be hard to know exactly when to use transition words. However, there are a few things you can look for to know when you should include transition words in your essay .

1. Section Sounds Choppy or Abrupt

If the paragraph or sentence you are writing sounds abrupt, transition words are needed.

2. Trouble Following Train of Thought

While writing without transitions can be abrupt, it can also be confusing. It’s important to guide readers from one thought to the next.

Without using the transition words, it’s hard to follow how Tracy could buy the gift.

3. Writing Jumps From One Idea to Next

Since you write the way you think, it can be easy to jump from one idea or point in your thesis statement to the next. However, this can be hard for readers to follow. Use transition words in these areas to guide readers from one idea to the next easier.

Common Mistakes With Transition Words

While using transition words might seem easy, it’s anything but. Many times, transition words are used incorrectly in a sentence or paragraph. Explore a few common mistakes of transition words to ensure you use them correctly in your writing.

Mixing Up the Meaning of Your Transition Words

When adding transition words to your writing, you need to know what they mean to use them correctly. For example, therefore is commonly used incorrectly in a phrase.

When using cause and effect words like therefore , make sure the connection from one sentence to the next is a logical one.

Additionally, words like and or as well as can get confused because people think they are interchangeable. However, they are not. When you’re presenting two things of equal importance, you need to use and . For two topics that are related but one is more important, you can use as well as .

Transition Words Making Informal Sentences

Another area that’s important to watch when using transition words in technical writing is adding informal writing techniques. And , also and so are transition words you should be adding to sentences. However, adding them to the beginning of the sentence makes it less formal. Therefore, you might want to consider more formal transition words like additionally and furthermore .

Creating Incomplete Sentences With Transition Words

When you use transition words, it’s important to ensure you don’t accidentally create an incomplete sentence. For example, words like, if , although and since are subordinating conjunctions . Therefore, you can easily create a fragment sentence if you aren’t careful.

Overusing Transition Words

Transition words require a delicate balance. While you can have too few transition words, you can also add too many. Not only is using too many transition words distracting in the writing, but it can also make the piece hard to read and understand. See how too many transition words can disrupt a passage through this example.

See how the transition words "therefore" and "at the same time" aren't really serving any purpose in the article. By removing them the story actually flows better and is easier to understand.

Building a Smooth Transition

These are just a few examples of the many transition words and phrases available in the English language to make your writing more cohesive. Bear in mind that it is possible for some words to be placed in more than one category, depending on the way you use them or the ideas you're trying to connect. Additionally, transition words used by 2nd graders will differ from 6th grade transition word usage.

For even more on transition words, see our comprehensive list of 51 useful transitional words . The more transition words you use in your writing, the smoother and more interesting it will be for your readers. Now, with transition words firmly solidified in your mind, learn how to write a memorable speech .


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