Using Transitional Tags

Definition

Transitional tags range from the most simple terms, such as coordinating conjunctions like and, but, nor, for, yet, or, (and sometimes) so — to more complex signals that ideas are somehow connected — such as conjunctive adverbs and transitional expressions such as however, moreover, nevertheless, on the other hand. Coordinating conjunctions are typically used to carry the reader from one idea to the next within the same sentence; they join clauses and indicate the nature of the relationship between the ideas. For examples, the terms but or yet indicate opposition while the conjunction so may be used to convey a causal relationship. Consider the examples below:

  • Charlotte did not enjoy running, but she participated in Ottawa’s Race Weekend all the same.
  • The bobsled team practiced weekly, so they were very familiar with the course.

It is atypical to begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction, and most college professors will advise against it in academic writing. Doing so runs the risk of creating a sentence fragment and may come across as too informal for post-secondary writing.

Here is a chart of transitional devices (also called conjunctive adverbs or adverbial conjunctions) accompanied with a simplified definition of function (note that some devices appear with more than one definition):

addition

  • again
  • also
  • and then
  • besides
  • equally important
  • finally
  • first
  • further
  • furthermore
  • in addition
  • in the first place
  • last
  • moreover
  • next
  • second
  • still
  • too

comparison

  • also
  • in the same way
  • likewise
  • similarly

concession

  • granted
  • naturally
  • of course

contrast

  • although
  • and yet
  • at the same time
  • but at the same time
  • despite that
  • even though
  • for all that
  • however
  • in contrast
  • in spite of
  • instead
  • nevertheless
  • notwithstanding
  • on the contrary
  • on the other hand
  • otherwise
  • regardless
  • still
  • though
  • yet

emphasis

  • certainly
  • indeed
  • in fact
  • of course

example or illustration

  • after all
  • as an illustration
  • even
  • for example
  • for instance
  • in conclusion
  • indeed
  • in fact
  • in other words
  • in short
  • it is true
  • of course
  • namely
  • specifically
  • that is
  • to illustrate
  • thus
  • truly

summary

  • all in all
  • altogether
  • as has been said
  • finally
  • in brief
  • in conclusion
  • in other words
  • in particular
  • in short
  • in simpler terms
  • in summary
  • on the whole
  • that is
  • therefore
  • to put it differently
  • to summarize

time sequence

  • after a while
  • afterward
  • again
  • also
  • and then
  • as long as
  • at last
  • at length
  • at that time
  • before
  • besides
  • earlier
  • eventually
  • finally
  • formerly
  • further
  • furthermore
  • in addition
  • in the first place
  • in the past
  • last
  • lately
  • meanwhile
  • moreover
  • next
  • now
  • presently
  • second
  • shortly
  • simultaneously
  • since
  • so far
  • soon
  • still
  • subsequently
  • then
  • thereafter
  • too
  • until
  • until now
  • when

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A Word of Caution

Do not include transitional expressions merely because you know these devices connect ideas. They must appear, naturally, where they belong, or they’ll make your text sound mechanical or contrived. (For that same reason, there is no point in trying to memorize this vast list.) On the other hand, if you can read your entire essay and discover none of these transitional devices, then you must wonder what, if anything, is holding your ideas together. Practice by inserting a tentative however, nevertheless, or consequently. Reread the essay later to see if these words provide the glue you needed at those points.

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