Writing: 8 Types of Transition Words You Should be Using in your Essays

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Writing a compelling essay can be a tricky task. The best essays are not just well-researched, but well-presented and convincing too! It takes practice and flair to write a cohesive piece of writing; something which often presents difficulties for both ESL students and native speakers alike.

Want to write a well-structured and logical essay? This is where transition words come in. Transition words connect ideas, and help your argument flow naturally - they’re basically the glue of your essay. Without them, your essay will feel clunky and disjointed.

There are lots of different types of transition words you can use in your writing. Today I’ve grouped them into 8 main types according to their different uses. This list is far from a complete list of all the transition words out there but it’s a good starting point.

Read on to learn more about the different types, examples, and how to incorporate them into your essays. Here they are in no particular order.

To Order & Sequence

To structure your essay and make sure it flows logically, you’ll want to include transition words to order and sequence.

  • first/second/third
  • next
  • then
  • finally

To Add

Want to add a new point or extra information but after something a bit more formal than “and’ or “also”? Try a few of these.

  • in addition
  • moreover
  • besides

To Make a Comparison

If you want to make a comparison give these words a go.

  • similarly
  • in comparison
  • likewise

To Show Contrast

Looking to show a different perspective or offer an alternative opinion? Use these words to introduce contrasting ideas.

  • however
  • nevertheless
  • (on one hand…) on the other hand

To Illustrate an Example

Using examples to prove a point?  Introduce them seamlessly with these easy expressions.

  • for example
  • for instance
  • to illustrate

To Show Cause & Effect

When drawing logical conclusions, it is common to make a connection between cause and effect. Use these words to do just that.

  • therefore
  • as a result
  • thus

To Clarify or Recap

Sometimes, before moving on, it may be necessary to further simplify explanations or summarize what you’ve already said. Try these phrases.

  • in other words
  • to summarize
  • all in all

To Conclude

At the end of your essay, you will want to come to a persuasive conclusion which takes into account the ideas you’ve presented up until this point. Your conclusion should give closure but also leave things open to further consideration. Use these expressions to introduce your new and insightful conclusion.

  • ultimately
  • all things considered
  • in essence

Correct Positioning & Punctuation

There are 3 positions where most transition words can be used correctly. Read through the examples and be sure to pay careful attention to the punctuation for each position.  

When writing an essay or extended piece of writing, I find it helpful to read it out loud slowly and notice where I pause naturally. If there is a pause, be sure to punctuate. Give it a go with these examples.

At the beginning of the sentence:

  • Learning English can be a challenging process. However, it is a useful life skill.
  • I’m not a big fan of grammar. On the other hand, I love speaking.
  • I’m not a confident public speaker. As a result, I get very nervous doing oral presentations.

In the middle (usually after the subject) of the sentence:

  • Learning English can be a challenging process. It is, however, a useful skill.
  • I’m not a big fan of grammar, on the other hand, I love speaking.
  • I’m not a confident public speaker, as a result, I get very nervous doing oral presentations.

At the end of the sentence:

  • Learning English can be a challenging process. It is a useful skill, however.
  • I’m not a big fan of grammar. I love speaking, on the other hand.
  • I’m not a very confident public speaker. I get very nervous doing oral presentations, as a result.

Hopefully, with the help of these transition words, your essay should now flow more naturally. However, if you’re still stuck and looking for ways to improve your essay writing skills there are loads of great resources online. Check out these general tips on the Oxford English Dictionary’s blog or for in-depth advice on different aspects of essay writing have a look at Harvard University’s writing center’s blog.


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