Transition Words & Phrases

Transition words and phrases are used to connect ideas in formal writing and speaking. Using transitions helps a piece of writing flow seamlessly from one thought to the next. These terms also help readers understand the purpose of the next thought (adding information, giving an example, contrasting a previous point, etc.).

Intermediate to advanced learners can benefit from studying typical transition words and phrases to use in academic and business prose, but it’s not enough to simply hand students a list of words. They must also learn how to use them correctly, and this includes learning the various sentence positions, punctuation rules, and exceptions. Try presenting transition words and phrases using the chart, rules, and examples below.

Word List

Sentence Positions

Most transition words and phrases can appear in three places in a sentence. Note the typical punctuation associated with each position.

1. At the beginning

  • Hurricanes claim many lives each year. Moreover, these powerful storms cause millions of dollars in damage.
  • Initial research seemed to support the theory. However, the latest test results weren’t conclusive.
  • Anxiety disorders can manifest in physical symptoms. For example, a patient may become dizzy or have trouble breathing.

2. In the middle (usually after the subject)

  • Hurricanes claim many lives each year. These powerful storms, moreover, cause millions of dollars in damage.
  • Initial research seemed to support the theory. The latest test results, however, weren’t conclusive.
  • Anxiety disorders can manifest in physical symptoms. A patient, for example, may become dizzy or have trouble breathing.

3. At the end

  • Hurricanes claim many lives each year. These powerful storms cause millions of dollars in damage, moreover.
  • Initial research seemed to support the theory. The latest test results weren’t conclusive, however.
  • Anxiety disorders can manifest in physical symptoms. A patient may become dizzy or have trouble breathing, for example.

4. Between two sentences

Note that in formal writing, the two sentences can also be joined by a semi-colon before the transition word (instead of a period).

  • Hurricanes claim many lives each year; moreover, these powerful storms cause millions of dollars in damage.
  • Initial research seemed to support the theory; however, the latest test results weren’t conclusive.
  • Anxiety disorders can manifest in physical symptoms; for example, a patient may become dizzy or have trouble breathing.

Exceptions

Some transition words don’t follow the normal rules for sentence position.

Exception 1

Such as appears after a noun (never at the beginning or end of a sentence).

  • There are many ways to improve one’s quality of sleep, such as no TV before bed and no food after 8:00 pm.

Exception 2

Also can appear at the beginning or end of a sentence. At the end, it is not preceded by a comma. As well should only come at the end of a sentence with no preceding comma.

  • New employees are expected to start at 9:00 am sharp. Also, they must dress professionally at all times.
  • New employees are expected to start at 9:00 am sharp. They must dress professionally at all times also.
  • New employees are expected to start at 9:00 am sharp. They must dress professionally at all times as well.

Exception 3

Thus, again, likewise, like, and unlike usually only appear at the beginning of a sentence. Note that like and unlike should be followed by a noun.

  • There was no conclusive evidence. Thus, the scientists decided to begin testing all over again.
  • This essay has demonstrated the relationship between vitamins and good health. Again, taking vitamin supplements ensures the body receives proper nutrients.
  • Dogs make great pets. Likewise, cats are wonderful companions.
  • Like cats, dogs make great pets.
  • Unlike snakes, dogs make great pets.

Exception 4

Meanwhile can appear at the beginning of a sentence or after a subject.

  • Hiring had begun. Meanwhile, interviews were still taking place.
  • Hiring had begun. Interviews, meanwhile, were still taking place.

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