When an essay lacks or has weak transitions, it can feel choppy, random, and unpolished. While it’s important to have transitions between sentences, scenes and ideas, the most common missing or weak transitions are between paragraphs. This happens most often when you use a 1-2-3 thesis (e.g. The author explores the theme of grief by using diction, imagery, and metaphor). Because 1-2-3 theses usually don’t connect their ideas together to support one argument, you will probably find it difficult to connect those ideas in the essay. However, you don’t have to have a 1-2-3 thesis to have weak or missing transitions.
Here are some examples (from Purdue OWL) of this common writing weakness:
Overall, Management Systems International has logged increased sales in every sector, leading to a significant rise in third-quarter profits. ¶ Another important thing to note is that the corporation has expanded its international influence.
The “and another thing” transition is very popular in college-level papers, and it is as bad as having no transition at all. This type of transition does not connect the two paragraphs in any meaningful way, and that is the purpose of a transition. If you can’t think of a link or connection between your two paragraphs, then they probably shouldn’t be in the same essay or right next to each other. Your whole essay should feel unified, and strong transitions are a large part of that. A better transition to link these two paragraphs would be:
Overall, Management Systems International has logged increased sales in every sector, leading to a significant rise in third-quarter profits. ¶ These impressive profits are largely due to the corporation’s expanded international influence.
Fearing for the loss of Danish lands, Christian IV signed the Treaty of Lubeck, effectively ending the Danish phase of the 30 Years War. ¶ But then something else significant happened. The Swedish intervention began.
This transition does draw a connection between the two paragraphs, showing the relationship between the two things being discussed (the end of the Danish phase and the beginning of the Swedish intervention): one happened before the other. However, this transition is awkward and choppy, and has the “and another thing” feel of the first example. It’s not usually a great idea for your transition to be an entire separate sentence. A better way to transition would be:
Fearing for the loss of more Danish lands, Christian IV signed the Treaty of Lubeck, effectively ending the Danish phase of the 30 Years War. ¶ Shortly after Danish forces withdrew, the Swedish intervention began.
Amy Tan became a famous author after her novel, The Joy Luck Club, skyrocketed up the besteller list. ¶ Tan participates in a satirical garage band the Rock Bottom Remainders with Stephen King and Dave Barry.
This is an example of two paragraphs with no transition at all. The writer simply switches from one topic to another. And while both paragraphs are about Amy Tan, that’s not really enough. They need to flow easily together, and for that you need a transition connecting the two. A better version would show what relationship Tan’s authorial career and her participation in a band have with each other:
Amy Tan became a famous author after her novel, The Joy Luck Club, skyrocketed up the bestseller list. ¶ Though her fiction is well known, her work with the satirical garage band the Rock Bottom Remainders receives far less publicity.
The best way to avoid weak transitions is to have a strong, unified thesis and to outline your essay before writing. Don’t treat paragraphs and points as separate things that have nothing to do with each other, but organize your essay so that your points or ideas build onto each other to support the thesis. This will help you to better identify the relationships the ideas have with each other, and your transitions will tell your reader what those relationships are. Alternatively, you can create a reverse outline (outlining your argument after you’ve written an essay) to help you create transitions between ideas and paragraphs after you’ve completed a draft.
Return to Common Writing Weaknesses.
Written by Courtney Stoker