Does your child use transition words in their essays?

If they don’t, they risk writing an incoherent essay.

Coherency is one of the indicators of a good essay. It relates to how ideas are connected on a logical level.

Is it indicated how ideas relate to each other? Do they flow logically or are readers constantly confused?

This concerns can be smoothed out through the use of transition words.

What are transition words

Transition words are more than linguistic expressions used to link sentences. They connect ideas. With them, students signal the logic between ideas, guiding readers- like their teachers and examiners- through their essay and extended response.

The use of linking words also makes it easier for readers and markers to follow your child’s discussion as they transit from one idea to the next, one sentence to the next, one paragraph to the next.

By using these expressions effectively, students will also be able to write clearly and concisely.

Types of transition words

Linguists and english teachers have generally agreed that there are four broad categories of transition expressions: additive, adversative, causal, and sequential.

Additive – introduce new information or examples, usually to add, compare, and clarify preceding ideas.

Adversative – highlight contrast and disagreement.

Causal – signal a cause and effect relationship between the ideas.

Sequential – show sequence of time and order of ideas.

Category Common Words Common Phrases
Additive also, moreover, particularly, concerning (this), likewise in addition to; to illustrate; looking at (this information)
Adversative however, conversely, indeed, nonetheless, although on the contrary; even so; notwithstanding (this)
Causal since, for, if … then, granted (that), consequently, therefore owing to (the fact); inasmuch as; as a result (of this)
Sequential initially, secondly, subsequently, eventually to start with

When to use transition words

Students can use transition expressions in a few settings. For day-to-day IB essays and extended response, students will likely use them within and between paragraphs. For lengthier essays and reports- like the internal assessments and extended essays– students may require to use transitions between sections of the paper.

While the general function of transition words remains the same, the objective differs slightly.

Transition within paragraphs

Within paragraphs, transition words can either be used sandwiched between two sentences or written within a sentence.

  • Primary energy is energy that is available but has not been processed in any way. On the other hand, secondary energy is energy that has become available due to processing.
  • Metals loses electrons to form actions whereas nonmetals gain electrons to form anions.

Regardless of when it’s used, the transition expression highlights how the ideas relate to each other. These relationships are usually contained to the main idea of the paragraph.

Using transition between paragraphs

When used between paragraphs, they are more commonly found at the start of a paragraph than at the end of one.

Here, they refer to information that has been established in the preceding paragraph. It also indicates how the ideas of the paragraph will link to prior paragraphs. Generally, this will follow one of the four transitions: additive, adversative, causal, and sequential.

The last paragraph would be an exception. As the final paragraph concludes the discussion, the transition word serves a summative function.

How to use transitions

1. Use them sparingly

Imagine driving down a road lined with traffic lights. After every metre, you have to stop because the traffic light has turned red. Frustrating, isn’t it?

The same happens when transitions are overused. Instead of enhancing the flow of ideas, it interrupts it. This makes the essay feel choppy and hard to follow.

A good rule of thumb for students to follow is to use transitions when they want to make an important point. This draws emphasis to the point and makes it appear more significant.

2. Use them appropriately

Different categories of transition words have their unique uses. Misusing a transition can cause confusion. For example, using the causal linking word ‘therefore’ when the student’s intent was to elaborate on a preceding idea. In this instance, the writer should use an additive transition expression.

Appropriate and precise usage is not limited to the broader categories. Even within individual categories, it is essential for students to understand the nuances of each words. To illustrate its importance, let us consider the implications when a student use the expressions ‘as well as’ and ‘and’ interchangeably in their essay.

At surface level, interchanging the two expressions do not seem problematic. They function similarly and students often consider them to be synonyms.

However, when students use one for the other, the meaning of the sentence changes. When the student uses ‘and’, it conveys that the presented ideas are of equal importance. On the contrary, ‘as well as’ implicates that the information that follows is less significant than that which precedes.

Therefore, before deciding on which transition to use, students should pause and consider the logical connection they want to establish between the two ideas.

3. Position them correctly

It is easy to assume that all transitions behave similarly, especially if they are in the same category. On the contrary, transitions each have their own behaviour quirks.

Take for instance ‘but’ and ‘however’. Both are adversative transitions used to establish contrast. Despite the similar function, they differ in the position they can grammatically take in a sentence.

While students can use ‘however’ both at the start and middle of a sentence, they can only use ‘but’ in the middle of a sentence.