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Transitional Words & How to Use Them

22 May

Transitional words are an easy and concise way to explain to a reader what the relationship is between thoughts, paragraphs, and sentences. Different situations require different transitions, and there are different transitional words to suit these different tasks. Below is a list of some transitional words:

  • To ADD:
    • Also, and, then, as well, besides, beyond that, first (second, third, last), for one thing, furthermore, in addition, moreover, next
  • To CLARIFY:
    • For instance, in other words, that is
  • To COMPARE:
    • Also, as well, both, in the same way, likewise, similarly, like, as
  • To CONTRAST:
    • Although, be that as it may, but even though, however, in contrast, nevertheless, on the contrary, on the other hand, whereas, yes
  • To CONCEDE A POINT:
    • Certainly, granted that, no doubt, of course
  • To EMPHASIZE:
    • Above all, especially, in fact, in particular, indeed, most important, most of all, surely
  • To ILLUSTRATE:
    • As a case in point, as an illustration, for example, for instance, in particular, one such, yet another
  • To PLACE IN SPACE:
    • Above, next to, beside, below, beyond, further, here, inside, nearby, next to, on the far side, outside, to the east (north, south, west)
  • To PLACE IN TIME:
    • After a while, afterward, at last, at present, briefly, currently, during, eventually, finally, first (second, third, last), gradually, immediately, in the future, later, meanwhile, now, recently, soon, suddenly, today, yesterday
  • To QUALIFY:
    • Perhaps
  • To GIVE REASON TO:
    • As, because, for, since
  • To SHOW A RESULT:
    • And so, as a consequence, as a result, because of this, consequently, for this reason, hence, so, therefore, thus
  • To SUMMARIZE:
    • All in all, finally, in brief, in conclusion, in other words, lastly, on the whole, to sum up

Now, how do we use these transitional words? Let’s walk through a few different examples:

  • You have to write an argument essay. You need to include three or four supporting points in favor of your argument, and you want to make sure to transition carefully between each supporting point so that your reader seamlessly follows your argument. After introducing your argument in your introduction (complete with a concrete thesis statement), you could introduce your different body paragraphs with a transitional word, like “First”, “Second”, “Third” and so on.
  • You have to write a report detailing the steps that you performed to achieve a desired outcome. In order to make sure that your reader is able to follow along with your discussion of the steps that you performed, you can use transitional words to move from one body paragraph to another. You could use words like “First”, “Second”, “Third” and so on, but you could also use words like “Afterward”, “Briefly”, etc., to illustrate the process.
  • You have to write a final essay for class where you illustrate and summarize what you have learned this semster. You would want to begin with a strong introduction, of course, and then progress into your illustration in your body paragraphs. At this point, you would likely reflect on a concept that you learned, and include an example to illustrate it. To transition into that example, you could use “For example,” “For instance”, and so on. Then, when you reach your conclusion, you would likely want to summarize your overall experience. Here, you could use transitional words to help you, including “All in all,” “Finally,” “Lastly”, etc.  
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The Five Paragraph Essay

17 Feb

“What is a five paragraph essay?” a student asked during an appointment in the Writing Center. The answer is easy; a five paragraph essay is an essay that has five paragraphs! That said, there’s a little bit more that you need to know to fully utilize the five paragraph essay format.

The five paragraph essay is a classic format for composition. While the five paragraph essay is not the only format for writing an essay, it is a useful model to keep in mind, as it can help in many writing situations, like in-class essay writing, essay exams, or essays with shorter page requirements.

The five paragraph essay format includes:

  • An introduction
  • Three focused body paragraphs
  • A conclusion

Imagine, for example, that you are asked to write an argument essay where, in two pages, you must present your argument with three supporting points. A five paragraph essay format is a great technique to employ in this situation. Here’s why:

  • 1st Paragraph: Introduction: First, in the introduction, you can generally introduce your topic to your reader, moving into your thesis statement, which will contain the basis for your argument and some indication of the direction you are going in. Here, you can work on getting your reader interested in the topic (by beginning generally) and then transition them into your specific argument (by moving them into a strong thesis statement).
  • 2nd Paragraph: First Body Paragraph/First Point: In this first body paragraph (but remember, this is your second actual paragraph), go into the strongest point. In this case, we would use this paragraph to discuss and develop the strongest point in support of our argument. The first sentence of this paragraph, the topic sentence, will identify this point for the reader. Then, we want to fill in the details and use examples (from research, etc.) to support the point. Finally, the last sentence should start transitioning the reader into the next paragraph.
  • 3rd Paragraph: Second Body Paragraph/Second Point: In our second body paragraph (third actual paragraph, incuding the introduction!), we want to go into our second strongest point. In this case, we would present the second strongest point in support of our argument or position. We again would identify this point in the first sentence (the topic sentence), support it throughout the paragraph, and conclude the paragraph with a sentence that includes a transitional “hook” into the next paragraph.
  • 4th Paragraph: Third Body Paragraph/Third Point: This is our last body paragraph, and it will present our last point. This paragraph may contain our weakest point, or the next logical point to make after the completion of the previous paragraph. Again, we would introduce this point in our topic sentence, illustrate it throughout the paragraph, and end with a sentence that transitions the reader into our final paragraph – the conclusion.
  • 5th Paragraph: Conclusion:  Our last paragraph is our conclusion. In our conclusion, we want to consider where we began in our introduction. We can imitate any introductory strategies in this conclusion to create a frame around our larger essay (ex. if we began with a question in the introduction, we might return to that question in our conclusion to create a frame). Then, we can briefly touch on our thesis and the three main points that we have made in our three body paragraphs (without just copying and pasting them!), and end our conclusion by leaving the reader with something to think about.

By following the five paragraph essay format, we have easily made sure that we have an introduction, three paragraphs in support of our main idea, and a conclusion. Each paragraph should stay focused on the topic or task identified for that paragraph. The introduction introduces, the body paragraphs develop one point as identified in the topic sentence, and the conclusion concludes, providing a wrap-up of the overall conversation. The great thing about the five paragraph essay format is that it is easy to modify for longer projects – just add in additional body paragraphs as needed!

Topic Sentences

27 Nov

Last week, we took a look at thesis statements. Just as the thesis statement establishes the main idea and focus for the complete essay, topic sentences establish the main idea and focus for the individual body paragraphs within the essay. Topic sentences also provide a place for the writer to connect that body paragraph back to the thesis statement; utilizing these components effectively can help to produce a cohesive piece of writing.

In academic writing, the topic sentence is typically the very first sentence in the body paragraph. Readers look to this first sentence to establish the focus of the paragraph, and every sentence that follows should connect back to the topic sentence. As each body paragraph should develop one point or idea, writers need to make sure that they first provide a strong topic sentence to start off the body paragraph, and that they do not deviate from the topic identified in their topic sentence by introducing new ideas or information as they develop the body paragraph. If a writer uncovers a new idea or point while constructing the body paragraph, they can revise the topic sentence (if appropriate) or develop a new paragraph (complete with a new topic sentence) to address that new point/idea.

Tips & Tricks for Topic Sentences:

  • Topic sentences should identify a claim. Thesis statements need to be defensible, and it is through body paragraphs that writers can begin to defend the thesis. Beginning each body paragraph with the claim or point that it is developing in support of the thesis statement allows writers to clearly show their argument.
  • Think of topic sentences as minature thesis statements. Try to capture the main idea of that paragraph, and its relevance to the essay as a whole, within the topic sentence.    
  • Start each body paragraph off with a strong topic sentence and follow it with reasons or examples that illustrate or develop the point or claim. An example, from The University of Ottawa’s Writing Center:  
    • Topic Sentence: Many fast food chains make their profits from adding a special ingredient called “forget sauce” to their foods.
      • This topic sentence identifies the overall focus or claim of the paragraph – “forget sauce”. Every sentence that follows will connect back to this main idea in some way.
    • Supporting Sentences: Made largely from edible oil products, this condiment is never listed on the menu. In addition, this well-kept industry secret is the reason why ingredients are never listed on the packaging of victuals sold by these restaurants. “Forget sauce” has a chemical property which causes temporary amnesia in consumers. After spending too much money on barely edible food bereft of any nutritional value, most consumers swear they will never repeat such a disagreeable experience. Within a short period, however, the chemical in “forget sauce” takes effect, and they can be depended upon to return and spend, older but no wiser.
      • All of the supporting sentence expand on the idea of “forget sauce” that is introduced in the topic sentence at the beginning of the paragraph. After effectively detailing and discussing “forget sauce”, the writer wraps up their body paragraph and prepares to transition into the next idea.
  • If you are having trouble constructing sound topic sentences, first determine the main point or claim for the body paragraph. If you notice more than one claim, consider if the two ideas are connected and need to be handled together, or if they should be split up into two separate body paragraphs. Once you have a clear idea of the main idea or claim for the body paragraph, try to capture that main idea in a statement, and tweak that statement until you have a strong topic sentence.
  • As always, feel free to visit the Writing Center or set up an online appointment for assistance! We are always happy to help!