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Academic Writing: Transitions & Linking Words

What’s the difference between a transition and a linking word? When should you use one over the other? This post answers these questions.

Transitions and Linking Words

Let's being by testing how much we already know.

Which sentence below uses a transition? Which sentence below uses a linking word?

Beyond our concerns about over-reliance on stewardship contracting, we also question how future place-based laws might be funded.

Additionally, we also question how future place-based laws might be funded.
Check answers

Like the name suggests, a linking word directly connects the current sentence with the previous sentence. A linking word can also be a group of words (e.g. On the one hand, In contrast, For example) These links typically happen at the beginning of sentences.

So, we use linking words to connect ______________ sentence with ___________ sentence.  

Check answers 


Do you remember the rule for using transitions in topic sentences?

So, a strong topic sentence should _______________ the paragraph's main idea and show the relationship between _____________ and the _______________. 


Check answers 


Now, that sounds pretty similar to using a transition, so what’s the difference? 


Let's return to our two example sentences to find out. 

Re-read the sentences and answer the question. 

Beyond our concerns about over-reliance on stewardship contracting, we also question how future place-based laws might be funded.
  • Do we know what came before this sentence?


Additionally, we also question how future place-based laws might be funded.
  • Do we know what came before this sentence?

Check answers

Typically, you want to avoid using only linking words to begin new ideas (i.e. new paragraphs) because it’s not clear which previous sentence or idea is being linked. Let’s look at another example to demonstrate this.

Remember the exercise below from our previous post on Topic and Concluding sentences?

Use one of the expressions above to transition from the paragraph below to the next.

...While Gap owned up to the problem, committed to correct it, and vowed to bring its suppliers into full compliance with its standards; the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF) reports that a cover-up is being attempted by some other companies doing business in India. In essence, ITGLWF is hearing from some suppliers that they are being pressured to eliminate any paper trail between retailers/brands and Indian subcontractors, who may or may not be using child labor.

Topic for the next paragraph: developing a mature system of industrial relations between independent unions and employers

One possible answer is

While GAP should be commended for their commitment to the ITGLWF’s standards, the more effective solution is clearly developing a mature system of industrial relations between independent unions and employers. 
  • Without reading the previous paragraph, do we know an idea that came before this sentence?

Now, what if the sentence instead was

Consequently, the more effective solution is clearly developing a mature system of industrial relations between independent unions and employers
  • Without reading the previous paragraph, do we know an idea that came before this sentence?

 Check answers 

So, when do we use linking words and NOT transitions?

What if I had two pretty simple and obvious ideas that I wanted to connect? For example, I have these two sentences below, and these two sentences have a direct relationship (one causes the other):
  • My cat pukes a lot. 
  • I have dirty carpets. 

Which connection seems better: a linking word or a transition?

  • My cat pukes a lot. As a result, I have dirty carpets. 
  • My cat pukes a lot. Since my cat pukes a lot, I have dirty carpets. 
 Check answers

So, we use linking words to connect ____________ sentence with___________ sentence and the two sentences ___________ relate.

 Check answers


! Challenge Exercise 

Can you answer these challenge questions?

  • Transitions typically occur in which sentence type? (simple, compound, complex)
  • Do linking words change the sentence type? (i.e. I have dirty carpets versus As a result, I have dirty carpets. Are they the same type of sentence?)
  • Can you think of a sentence that begins with a linking word and also includes a transition? Share it in the comments below! What about a sentence that uses a linking word, transition, and is also compound? 
Check answers 

Final Thoughts

Sometimes you'll see paragraphs start with a linking word instead of a transition. Typically, this can mean two things: that the author thinks the connection is obvious or the new paragraph is building upon a previous idea, not changing to a new one.

Remember, like everything else in writing, these techniques help the reader understand your writing. Always think of the reader and these rules when deciding on linking words and transitions

If you have difficult thinking of linking words, you can always Google "linking words" and find many websites with lists of English linking words, such as this one here.
 









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