Linking words (also known as transitions) are one of the most important elements in writing, since they allow readers to see the relationships between your ideas. There are several categories of transitions, ranging from words and phrases that signal contrast to words and phrases that signal agreement.
Because they are so important, it’s critical that you don’t misuse them. This article presents some commonly misused linking words that you should be aware of, and then presents some of the most common types of linking words, along with examples.
The most important thing I can emphasize here is to always be aware of the definition of any word or phrase you use. You may be familiar enough with a word to feel comfortable using it, but if you don’t actually know its definition and you don’t take the time to look it up, you may occasionally (or frequently) misuse it.
Linking words present a particularly important case in which you should be aware of definitions, since your audience will be easily lost if you misrepresent the connections between your sentences and ideas.
Linking words often (Ab)used
Easily one of the most commonly misused linking words, therefore indicates a logical relationship between two things, such that the first thing proves or necessitates the second. Think of it as equivalent to the phrase “as a result.” Confused uses of therefore often imply odd logical connections.
Example of misused transition: Therefore
Law firms are known for their highly competitive environments. Therefore it is important for lawyers to set themselves apart from their colleagues.
Problem: To see the problem more clearly, simplify the sentence: “We know it’s a competitive environment, so it’s important for lawyers to set themselves apart.” The implication here is that lawyers need to set themselves apart because people know that law firms are highly competitive.
However, the fact that people know of the highly competitive environment is more or less irrelevant to the reasons lawyers set themselves apart from each other.
Therefore used correctly
Law firms are highly competitive environments. Therefore it is important for lawyers to set themselves apart from their colleagues.
Explanation: Here, the logical connection is between law firms being highly competitive environments and lawyers needing to set themselves apart from each other.
Herewith, therewith, hereby
These are all examples of transition words not in common use. They are most common in the technical definitions of legal documents, and often sound archaic when used in other contexts. Though they have their uses, it’s best to avoid these words.
Example of misused transition: Hereby
One of the best ways to understand poverty is as a disease. Hereby, we not only see that it is hereditary, but acknowledge that it has devastating effects on a person’s health.
One of the best ways to understand poverty is as a disease. Understanding it this way, we not only see that it is hereditary, but also acknowledge that it has devastating effects on a person’s health.
Explanation: “Hereby” was above being used as an equivalent to “herewith,” meaning roughly “along with this,” “in this way,” or “by means of this.” The language is simply much more natural in the rephrasing.
This slash-transition (and with most other words joined by a slash) can be very difficult to understand. Some writers mean “eitherAor B or both A and B,” yet others simply mean A and B, and still others simply mean A or B. It gets confusing.
Avoid and/or altogether in formal writing. Almost always the context of the discussion will clarify your meaning if you use simply and or or. In cases that might be confusing, it’s generally best to spend the extra words to clarify your meaning.
Example of misused transition: And/or
On her way to work, she will take the bus and/or the train.
Explanation: It’s difficult to tell whether she might take 1) either the bus or the train, 2) both the bus and the train, or 3) either the bus or the train or both. Making the ambiguity worse, the intended meaning will change depending on the writer. This confusion of use among beginning writers makes it difficult for a reader to decide among the choices.
Solution: Simply avoid “and/or” and spell out the option that you mean:
- the bus or the train
- the bus and the train
- the bus and the train, or both of them.
As well as
The phrase “as well as” is often used as a substitution for “and,” but the meaning is not quite the same. “As well as” implies a difference of emphasis or importance, with whatever comes after “as well as” being less important, so receiving less emphasis. “And,” on the other hand, is used between two equally important things.
Example of misused transition: as well as
The mayor will decide on next week’s meeting time, as well as whether or not staff will be paid for that meeting.
Problem: The emphasis seems not to be right here, at least if we think that whether staff will be paid is at least as important as the time of the meeting. To see the problem more clearly, we can keep the emphasis as it is and rephrase the sentence: “The mayor will decide on not only whether or not staff will be paid for their time, but also on next week’s meeting time.”
Here it should be obvious that the “not only … but also” sentence structure downplays the importance of a seemingly important issue (whether or not staff gets paid). The emphasis is the same in the original sentence.
The mayor will decide on next week’s meeting time and whether or not staff will be paid for that meeting.
Explanation: “And” gives equal emphasis to both the time of the meeting and the issue of staff pay. If we think these are issues that should receive equal emphasis, we need to use “and.”
Different examples of linking words*
Note that many of these may appear at the beginning, middle, and end of sentences. If in doubt about the use of any of the linking words below, a quick search for example sentences should help clarify.
Additive linking words
These show addition, introduction, similarity to other ideas, etc.
|Addition||indeed, further, as well, not only x but also y, also, moreover, as a matter of fact, and, furthermore, additionally, besides x, or, in fact, too, let alone, nor, alternatively, on the other hand, not to mention x|
|Introduction||such as, as, particularly, including, as an illustration, for example, like, in particular, to illustrate, for instance, especially, notably, by way of example|
|Reference||speaking of x, considering x, regarding x, in regard to x, as for x, concerning x, the fact that, on the subject of x|
|Similarity||similarly, in the same way, by the same token, in a like manner, equally, likewise, as|
|Identification||that is (to say), namely, specifically, thus, more precisely|
|Clarification||that is (to say), I mean, (to) put (it) another way, in other words|
Adversative linking words
These linking words are used to signal conflict, contradiction concession, dismissal, etc.
|Conflict||but, by way of contrast, while, on the other hand, however, (and) yet, whereas, though, in contrast, when in fact, conversely, still, whereas|
|Emphasis||even more, above all, indeed, more importantly, besides|
|Concession||even so, nevertheless, even though, on the other hand, admittedly, however, nonetheless, despite x, notwithstanding x, (and) still, although, in spite of x, regardless (of x), (and) yet, though, granted x, be that as it may|
|Dismissal||either way, whichever happens, whatever the case, in either event, in any case, at any rate, in either case, whatever happens, all the same, in any event|
|Replacement||(or) at least, (or) rather, instead|
Causal linking words
These linking words signal cause and effect, reason and result, etc.
|Cause or Reason||for the (simple) reason that, being that, for, in view of x, inasmuch as, because (of x), seeing that, as, owing to (x), due to (the fact that), in that, since|
|Condition||on (the) condition (that), in the case that, granted (that), if, provided that, in case, in the event that, as/so long as, unless, given that, granting (that), providing that, even if, only if|
|Effect/Result||as a result (of x), consequently, hence, for this reason, thus, because (of x), in consequence, so that, accordingly, as a consequence, so much (so) that, so, therefore|
|Purpose||for the purpose of, in the hope that, for fear that, so that, with this intention, to the end that, in order to, lest, with this in mind, in order that, so as to, so|
|Consequence||under such circumstances, then, in that case, if not, that being the case, if so, otherwise|
Sequential linking words
These linking words are used to signal a chronological or logical sequence.
|Numerical||in the (first, second, etc.) place, initially, to start with, first of all, firstly (etc.), to begin with, at first, for a start|
|Continuation||subsequently, previously, eventually, next, before x, afterwards, after x, then|
|Conclusion||to conclude (with), as a final point, eventually, at last, last but not least, finally, lastly|
|Digression||to change the topic, incidentally|
|Resumption||to get back to the point, to resume, anyhow, anyway, at any rate, to return to the subject|
|Summation||as previously stated, so, consequently, in summary, all in all, to make a long story short, thus, as I have said, to sum up, overall, as has been mentioned, then, to summarize, to be brief, briefly, given these points, in all, on the whole, therefore, as has been noted, hence, in conclusion, in a word, to put it briefly, in sum, altogether, in short|
* List of transitions taken with slight modifications from https://www.msu.edu/~jdowell/135/transw.html with credits to Prof. Campbell, Prof. Buckhoff, and Prof Dowell at Michigan State University (License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)
As a "part of speech" transition words are used to link words, phrases or sentences. They help the reader to progress from one idea (expressed by the author) to the next idea. Thus, they help to build up coherent relationships within the text.
This structured list of commonly used English transition words — approximately 200, can be considered as quasi complete. It can be used (by students and teachers alike) to find the right expression. English transition words are essential, since they not only connect ideas, but also can introduce a certain shift, contrast or opposition, emphasis or agreement, purpose, result or conclusion, etc. in the line of argument.
The transition words and phrases have been assigned only once to somewhat artificial categories, although some words belong to more than one category.
There is some overlapping with prepositions and postpositions, but for the purpose of usage and completeness of this concise guide, I did not differentiate.
Agreement / Addition / Similarity
The transition words like also, in addition, and, likewise, add information, reinforce ideas, and express agreement with preceding material.
in the first place
not only ... but also
as a matter of fact
in like manner
in the same fashion / way
first, second, third
in the light of
not to mention
to say nothing of
by the same token
as well as
Opposition / Limitation / Contradiction
Transition phrases like but, rather and or, express that there is evidence to the contrary or point out alternatives, and thus introduce a change the line of reasoning (contrast).
although this may be true
of course ..., but
on the other hand
on the contrary
at the same time
in spite of
even so / though
be that as it may
as much as
Cause / Condition / Purpose
These transitional phrases present specific conditions or intentions.
in the event that
as / so long as
on (the) condition (that)
for the purpose of
with this intention
with this in mind
in the hope that
to the end that
for fear that
in order to
seeing / being that
in view of
only / even if
so as to
Examples / Support / Emphasis
These transitional devices (like especially) are used to introduce examples as support, to indicate importance or as an illustration so that an idea is cued to the reader.
in other words
to put it differently
for one thing
as an illustration
in this case
for this reason
to put it another way
that is to say
with attention to
by all means
important to realize
another key point
first thing to remember
most compelling evidence
must be remembered
point often overlooked
to point out
on the positive side
on the negative side
with this in mind
to be sure
Effect / Consequence / Result
Some of these transition words (thus, then, accordingly, consequently, therefore, henceforth) are time words that are used to show that after a particular time there was a consequence or an effect.
Note that for and because are placed before the cause/reason. The other devices are placed before the consequences or effects.
as a result
under those circumstances
in that case
for this reason
Conclusion / Summary / Restatement
These transition words and phrases conclude, summarize and / or restate ideas, or indicate a final general statement. Also some words (like therefore) from the Effect / Consequence category can be used to summarize.
as can be seen
in the final analysis
all things considered
as shown above
in the long run
given these points
as has been noted
in a word
for the most part
by and large
to sum up
on the whole
in any event
in either case
all in all
Time / Chronology / Sequence
These transitional words (like finally) have the function of limiting, restricting, and defining time. They can be used either alone or as part of adverbial expressions.
at the present time
from time to time
sooner or later
at the same time
up to the present time
to begin with
in due time
as soon as
as long as
in the meantime
in a moment
in the first place
all of a sudden
at this instant
by the time
Many transition words in the time category (consequently; first, second, third; further; hence; henceforth; since; then, when; and whenever) have other uses.
Except for the numbers (first, second, third) and further they add a meaning of time in expressing conditions, qualifications, or reasons. The numbers are also used to add information or list examples. Further is also used to indicate added space as well as added time.
Space / Location / Place
These transition words are often used as part of adverbial expressions and have the function to restrict, limit or qualify space. Quite a few of these are also found in the Time category and can be used to describe spatial order or spatial reference.
in the middle
to the left/right
in front of
on this side
in the distance
here and there
in the foreground
in the background
in the center of
List of Transition Words
Transition Words are also sometimes called (or put in the category of) Connecting Words. Please feel free to download them via this link to the category page:
Linking Words & Connecting Words as a PDF.
It contains all the transition words listed on this site. The image to the left gives you an impression how it looks like.
Usage of Transition Words in Essays
Transition words and phrases are vital devices for essays, papers or other literary compositions. They improve the connections and transitions between sentences and paragraphs. They thus give the text a logical organization and structure (see also: a List of Synonyms).
All English transition words and phrases (sometimes also called 'conjunctive adverbs') do the same work as coordinating conjunctions: they connect two words, phrases or clauses together and thus the text is easier to read and the coherence is improved.
Usage: transition words are used with a special rule for punctuation: a semicolon or a period is used after the first 'sentence', and a comma is almost always used to set off the transition word from the second 'sentence'.
People use 43 muscles when they frown; however, they use only 28 muscles when they smile.
However, transition words can also be placed at the beginning of a new paragraph or sentence - not only to indicate a step forward in the reasoning, but also to relate the new material to the preceding thoughts.
Use a semicolon to connect sentences, only if the group of words on either side of the semicolon is a complete sentence each (both must have a subject and a verb, and could thus stand alone as a complete thought).
Further helpful readings about expressions, writing and grammar: Compilation of Writing Tips How to write good ¦ Correct Spelling Study by an English University
Are you using WORD for writing professional texts and essays? There are many easy Windows Shortcuts available which work (almost) system-wide (e.g. in every programm you use).