Tip 6 - Transition between paragraphs.

Transitions are words, phrases, sentences, and even paragraphs that indicate the relationships between the ideas in your writing. Transitions tell the reader how to process the information you are giving them, for example, whether they should compare, contrast, conclude, or find an example of the point you're making (just like I am doing here). Therefore, effective transitions are an important part of mastering English legal writing.

Yet, for some writers, particularly those under deadline pressure, transitions are a mere afterthought, a way to dress up the text and make it look better. This is wrong. In fact, you should be thinking about your essential transitions even before you start writing them. If you first analyze how your ideas relate to one another in furthering the purpose of your writing, then the overall structure and organization of your text becomes more refined. Transitions make that structure explicit, providing a roadmap for your reader on which direction you are taking. They help ensure that your message does not get lost along the way.

If you find yourself at a loss as to how to transition from one idea to the next, then it could be an indication that your text needs to be restructured or perhaps certain information is extraneous and should be deleted or footnoted. Keep in mind that if you cannot figure out the relationship between your arguments, your readers probably will not either.

The good news is that numerous transitional techniques are available to help craft coherent and unified text. As I stated at the outset, a transition can be anything from a single word to an entire paragraph. Transitional paragraphs are particularly effective in longer, more complicated documents. They offer a summary of the information you've provided and then relate that information to the new text you will discuss, thereby creating a logical progression throughout the document. Between paragraphs (and even between sentences), transitional phrases or sentences are great devices to move from one idea to the next. Take the following two paragraphs for example:

The legal writing instructor made her way to Brussels with the stated goal of educating lawyers on the utmost importance of correct comma use. It was a journey, she told people, of self-less sacrifice in pursuit of proper punctuation.

Despite what she told people, the instructor had ulterior motives: She wanted to meet an EU trade lawyer and marry him.

In this example, the transition 'Despite what she told people' highlights the contrast between what the instructor asserted were her reasons for coming to Brussels in the first paragraph and the real hidden reason stated in the second. The transition not only tells readers to get ready to think differently about the instructor but also echoes the words found in the first paragraph, connecting the two. The example may sound silly, but it reads smoothly with the use of a phrasal transition.

Single-word transitions are often found between two sentences but can be used to connect clauses within a sentence or bridge between paragraphs as well. Their use is varied. However, as with any writing technique, overuse is counter-productive and could end up clogging your prose rather than speeding it along. If you find yourself writing, for example, 'In addition' or 'Thus' over and over again in your document, check to see if you can vary the transitions; maybe a word or phrase echoing the message of the previous sentence could help; maybe you can switch around clauses in your sentence so that you move readers from old information to new, providing hooks, or context, for your readers to better process your ideas; maybe the relationship is evident and you don't need a transition at all. You have a lot of options. Choose what works best for each new idea presented.

To help in finding what works best, the following are single-word or phrasal transitions that may be used to unify your writing.

To show that a new idea expands on what you just said, use:
in addition, additionally, and, similarly, also, as well, further, furthermore, moreover, besides, too

To show an example or to illustrate a new idea, use:
for example, for instance, as an illustration, to illustrate, namely, specifically, particularly, in fact, in particular, in this manner, in this way, thus

To show emphasis, use:
indeed, even, in fact, of course, naturally

To show contrast between a new idea and one previously stated, use:
despite, but, nevertheless, nonetheless, notwithstanding, however, although, even though, yet, still, on the other hand, in contrast, on the contrary, conversely

To show logical relationships, and cause and effect, use:
because, thus, therefore, hence, for this reason, as a result, so, consequently, accordingly

To show time relationships, use:
meanwhile, in the interim, between, during, simultaneously, since, afterward, after, before, earlier, later, then, formerly, immediately, at once, shortly, currently, now, recently, in the end, thereafter

To show a conclusion or summary, use:
to conclude, in conclusion, in sum, in the end, to summarize, in summary, and so, on the whole, finally


Previous Tip - Introduce each paragraph with a topic sentence.

Next Tip - Avoid ambiguous words and phrases.


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