The Most Comprehensive Transition Word Guide You'll Ever Find

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Another big-ticket grammar topic that 90% of my students need help with is this: Transitions.

Transitions are those little words like “however,” “additionally,” “thus,” or “because” that help you, the reader, digest what you just read and help you more quickly connect the dots of how certain sentences in a passage relate to each other. Do we HAVE to have them to formulate complete, grammatically correct sentences? No. But are they SUPER helpful is navigating an essay? Absolutely!

And what’s more? Both the ACT English section and the SAT Writing section test this concept extensively—it’s definitely worth a spattering of points for you!

 

In the grand scheme of things, there are three major categories of transition words:

I) Words that Continue

II) Words that Contrast, and

III) Words that show Cause-and-Effect

 

Furthermore, EACH of these categories can be further broken down by specific function. For the sake of clarity, I’m listing all the words from each category below. That said, there are still differences between them:

  • You will notice that some words have commas after them. That means that they are “hard transition words,” which act like extra information in a sentence. Hard transition words don’t change if the clause is complete or dependent—they just add commentary.

  • Other transition words don’t have a comma after them, like FANBOYS words. These do change the clause! They affect whether the clause is complete or dependent. I call this type “soft transition words.”

  • Furthermore, some transition words require certain verb forms, like using an “-ing” verb. These will be noted.

 

I) CONTINUE words

A) Words that add a piece of information to the same subject you were already discussing:

(ex: My ruler is twelve inches long. Additionally, it’s hot pink.)

            Additionally,

            Also,

            And [FANBOYS]

            Furthermore,

            In addition,

            Moreover,

 

B) Words that show how two things are similar:

(ex: My ruler is hot pink. Likewise, my scissors is hot pink.)

            Likewise,

            Similarly,

 

C) Words that give a specific example to something you just said:

(ex: Many office supplies these days are hot pink. For example, my ruler and scissors are both this color.)

            For example,           

            For instance,

 

D) Words that clarify or explain something you just said:

(ex: In our consumerist society, office supply companies are bending to the demands of popular culture by creating aesthetically-pleasing models of previously boring items. In other words, they are selling hot pink and turquoise rulers and scissors instead of the plain wooden or silver versions of old.)

            Effectively,

            Essentially,

            In other words,

            That is,

 

E) Words that emphasize something you just said:

(ex: Office supply companies are more concerned with appealing to as broad an audience as possible. In fact, they think it’s more important to have every color scissors available than that the scissors cut paper well!)

            In fact,

            Indeed,

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 II) CONTRAST words:

A) Words that show how two ideas contradict or go against each other:

            Alternatively,

            Although

            But [FANBOYS]

            Conversely,

            Despite [+“ing” verb]

            Even so,

            However,

            In any case,

            In spite of [+”ing” verb]

            Instead,

            Meanwhile,

            Nevertheless,

            Nonetheless,

            Otherwise,

            Rather,

            Regardless,

            Still,

            Though

            Whereas

            While

            Yet [FANBOYS]

To recap: Hard transitions are separated by commas and do not impact if the clause is complete or not. Soft transitions are NOT separated by commas and they turn complete clauses into dependent ones!

Example 1 with hard transition, which maintains two complete clauses and is separated by a comma from the surrounding word(s): She was thirsty. However, she didn’t drink the water.

 Example 2 with soft transition that creates a dependent clause and is not separated by a comma from the subsequent word: Despite being thirsty, she didn’t drink the water.

 

B) Words that show how two things or people are different from each other:

            Alternately,

            Alternatively,

            By contrast,

            In contrast,

            On the contrary,

            On the other hand,

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III) CAUSE-AND-EFFECT words:

A) Words that come before the reason/cause:

(Ex: Because she was so thirsty, she drank an entire gallon of water.)

            Because

            For [FANBOYS]

            Since

 

B) Words that indicate the result/effect:

(Ex: She was quite thirsty. Therefore, she drank an entire gallon of water.)           

            Accordingly,

            As a result,

            As such,

            Consequently,

            Hence,

            So [FANBOYS]

            Thus,

            Therefore,

            To these ends,

 

…got it?

Wow. So that was a brain-dump!

Seriously, though, you can use these categories and subcategories in two very important ways that snag some extra points on your tests. And in my next post, I’ll be explaining to you exactly how this knowledge can help you do that, with my two tried-and-true techniques for tackling transition word questions. So make some flash cards or just print this guide out, and I’ll see you back here soon!