Use transition words
A topic sentence may provide a transition from one paragraph to another. But a transition word or phrase (usually in the topic sentence) clearly tells the audience whether the paragraph expands on the paragraph before, contrasts with it, or takes a completely different direction.
Types of transitions
Bryan Garner (2001) divides transition words into three types:
Pointing words – including this, that, these, those, and the – refer directly to something already mentioned. They point to an antecedent. If your preceding paragraph describes the process of strip mining, and your next paragraph begins with “this process causes…,” the word this makes a clear connection between paragraphs.
Echo links are words or phrases that echo a previously mentioned idea. They often work together with pointing words.
In the example above, you’ve just written a paragraph about how strip mining removes the top surface of the land to get at the coal under it. If you then begin the next paragraph with “this scaring of the earth,” the words “scarring of the earth” are an echo of the mining process described in the previous paragraph.
Explicit connectives – further, also, however, and therefore — supply transitions.
Explicit connectives between sentences and paragraphs can be overdone, but more often we simply overlook using them. Being too familiar with our own material, we think they aren’t needed. Readers, on the other hand, find them helpful in following our train of thought.
Here are some examples from Bryan Garner.
When adding a point
also, and, in addition, besides, what is more, similarly, further
When giving an example
for instance, for example, for one thing, for another thing
in other words, that is, in short, put differently, again
When introducing a result
so, as a result, thus, therefore, accordingly, then
but, however, on the other hand, still, nevertheless, conversely
When summing up
to summarize, to sum up, to conclude, in conclusion, in short
When sequencing ideas
first, second, third, fourth, then, next, finally
- Garner, Bryan A., Legal Writing in Plain English, 2001, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 67-71.