Transition Words for Essays


Transition words for essays are the glue that hold
your paragraphs together. They provide the
connections needed for your paragraphs to
flow seamlessly. You also use transitions within
a paragraph: for instance,
to account for a
passage of time.
Let’s try injecting some transitional sentences
in our SHOW example from our previous section.
While it’s a good paragraph, it’s missing some
important elements. Here’s the paragraph again:

“Runners take your marks,” shouts the starter. My heart begins pounding hard, as I crouch down, rub my sweaty hands together, and plant my fingertips on the white line of the pavement. “Get set,” yells the man with the gun. My hips shoot up. A burst of excitement fills my body. My knee is scarred and my chin is bruised from all those practice drills and long hours of hard training, but my will and determination is stronger than ever. I am ready!

“Boom” blasts the gun. As I explode down the lane and approach the first hurdle, I think back on a time when I didn’t believe in myself. A time when I didn’t understand the value of personal sacrifice and hard work. And now here I am on my way to the finish line. I don’t know if I’ll be the first one to cross it or not, but it doesn’t matter. I’m still excited. Because now I can close my eyes and picture myself crossing any finish line I may face in life.”

First, the line – “… I didn’t understand the value of personal sacrifice, dedication, and hard work.” might not withstand the “Oh really, why?” test.

Second, the transitional line “And now here I am on my way to the finish line..” is carrying a heavy load. Like a time capsule, it’s transitioning the reader from the past to the present. But unless the writer can explain how this transformation took place with a supporting sentence or in a supporting paragraph, this transitional line doesn’t hold on its own merit.

Here’s the way the paragraphs were originally written as part of this candidate’s personal statement. The writer’s unique experience and situation gave him all he needed to explain the “why?” and transport us through the story.

“Runners take your marks,” shouts the starter. My heart begins pounding hard, as I crouch down, rub my sweaty hands together, and plant my fingertips on the white line of the pavement. “Get set,” yells the man with the gun. My hips shoot up. A burst of excitement fills my body. My knee is scarred and my chin is bruised from all those practice drills and long hours of hard training, but my will and determination is stronger than ever. I am ready!

“Boom” blasts the gun. As I explode down the lane and approach the first hurdle, I think back on that once shy, undersized kid that lacked self-confidence and motivation. Thank goodness my coach had the experience and patience to help me evolve. “There’s a winner somewhere inside of you,” he would say. “We just need to wake him up. First, you have to dare to imagine.” He taught me to dream; to envision myself winning, and picture the finish line as just another hurdle in my way. We started by setting attainable goals with simple drills to build my confidence, and then working our way up to more challenging ones.

It wasn’t easy. It took sweat and tears. I even contemplated quitting more than once. But the dream which coach planted in my head, kept me going. Now here I am about to cross the finish line with no one else in front. I’ve taken first place on the last five meters! Grasping for air I turned to my coach. “Welcome home,” he whispered, with a huge grin on his face. I felt every muscle in my body shiver with emotion. It was a feeling that I had never felt before. It’s funny how something as simple as crossing a finish line can become such a defining moment. I never took first place again for the remainder of the season, but that one experience will last me a lifetime. It taught me that with a little work and sacrifice, I can close my eyes and picture myself crossing every finish line I face in life, no matter how many hurdles get in my way.

danger-signReflect back on your own personal feelings and experiences. Then relate it in a story.  

 

Here are some danger zones and things to watch out for when working your transition words for essays:

DON’T…

    • Don’t ignore the importance of a good transition. Transition statements such as “Since I’ve grown...”, or “Ever since fifth grade..”, keeps the reader on track, and helps progress the idea.
    • Don’t use passive voice verbs when you can express the same idea in an active voice. For example, say “My teacher helped me”, not “I was helped by my teacher.”
    • Don’t fall into the trap of the I…I…I… repetition.
  • Don’t ignore the use of imagery. As long as it’s clear, it will liven up your essay.

Now that we’ve worked on developing your story and transitioning well between paragraphs, it’s time to head for the finish line the essay conclusion.


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