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Transitions and Sequencing Using Signal Words April 16, 2009

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We want our writing to flow naturally. We want our readers to feel that we know where we are headed and we are in control of our writing. This means they can just sit back and enjoy the ride!

We don’t want our readers to feel that we are jumping all over the place. As well, we don’t want our readers to feel that they are reading a list of ideas written by a robot! We want to communicate with our readers in a way that sounds natural to them.

We do this is by using transitions and sequencing to move our reader from one idea to another. We also use these “signal words” to demonstrate to our reader how all our ideas connect together. Our reader will be more likely to understand and enjoy what we have written if we show them the road signs along our path of ideas.

Here are 3 Ways to Think of Transitions:

1.  Building bridges between ideas and events

2.  Connecting ideas and events

3.  Showing the order of ideas and events

We Transition from Sentence-to-Sentence and from Paragraph-to-Paragraph

We use transitions and sequencing to move from sentence to sentence, and to move from paragraph to paragraph. We use transitions and sequencing as an artistic tool. Not every sentence must transition to another sentence. In fact, you wouldn’t want to do this. We want to “sprinkle in” these transitional signal words in an artistic and creative way. The way we transition is the true art of writing.

Compared to transitioning sentences, it is a little more common to transition every paragraph into another paragraph. Better though, is to show some artistic creativity! If the ways you use transitions are always the same, people see the pattern and it becomes too predictable. Predictable is not creative.

Transitions and the Art of Writing

When it comes to the “art of writing” there is little more important than the way you transition throughout your writing. You want to lead and guide your reader along a path, but you don’t want them to be overly aware that they are being led and guided. You want them to be so engaged in what you have written that they can’t see or won’t think about your transitions.

In music transitions are the sign of a true master! Have you ever heard a song that starts off slow and quiet, and later in the song it sounds fast and loud? Sometimes you wonder if it’s even the same song! How did they get there? It’s all in the transitions!

Here Are Some Transitions That We Will Want to Signal Our Reader About:

1.  That we are adding new information and continuing in the same direction

2.  That we are changing directions or we are going to compare and contrast events or ideas

3.  That we are going to show the cause and effect of events or ideas

4.  That the order/sequence/time of events and ideas is important

5.  That we are going to emphasize, repeat, or give examples of events or ideas

LuvToTeach November 27th, 2009

This the best explanation of transitions that I have found that my students could relate to. Thanks!

Paul Barger February 14th, 2010

Glad it helped. I find it so much fun how “directional” transitions are. “That was a great party you had BUT…” That one word “but” is taking away everything you said prior and changing directions.

Compare that to “That was a great party you had AND…” The “and” keeps everything moving in the same direction. “That was a great party you had and… next time you should get more chips.”

Keep in mind that the “Pattern Based Writing: Quick and Easy Essay” writing program has a lot more where this came from :-)

Julia September 17th, 2010

Wow, this article so clearly describes what kids need to know about writing transitions! Thanks for the resource.

Kim January 4th, 2011

This is one of the most clearly written and engaging definitions and example of ‘transitions’ that I have enjoyed reading to my daughter. Thank you

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