A signpost in a British shopping center, with signs pointing in every direction.

Source: “Signpost, Beverley,” Andrew Havis, Flickr

It is easier to read something if you are told throughout the work when the writing is about to take a turn, double back, or take up a new topic. Such signposts are usually absent from literary writing—personal essays, memoirs, short stories, and especially poetry. Literary writers expect their readers to find their own way through the text, and readers of literary work expect to be able to do so. But in academic writing, which includes most expository essays, writers are expected to supply these signposts. The signposts are called transitional expressions, and they clarify the writing. Clarity is one of the primary goals of academic writing.

In this section, you are going to practice using six transitional expressions: furthermore, for example, in other words, although, as a result, and although it is true.

All of these expressions are probably familiar to you, but using them in your writing may not be natural. When done correctly however, use of these expressions results in writing that is easier to read and that communicates more powerfully to a reader.

In the last statement, there was a warning. Did you catch it? The warning was that these phrases must be used correctly or they will counter the effect you want: they will make your writing harder to read and less powerful.

Let’s see how good you are at picking out the correct uses of these words. In each of the sets of sentences below, one passage uses the transitional words correctly. The other passages are incorrect. Check the box of the passage that you think is correct.

An old-looking album shows a group of adults, mostly in their forties and fifties, singing around an old record player. They are wearing suits and ties, nice dresses and pearls.

Source: “Join the Four Roses Song Fest,” Epiclectic, Flickr

  1. Furthermore

  2. a. The music in the elevator was annoying, and furthermore, it was too loud.
    Correct! “Furthermore” adds something to the comment it follows.
    b. The music helped me concentrate, but furthermore, my sister turned it off.
    Try Again.
    c. I like all kinds of music, so furthermore, I don’t care what kind you play.
    Try Again.

  3. For example

  4. a. If I listen to the right music, I want to dance. For example, I also want to sing.
    Try Again.
    b. When I am in my room at home, I like to turn the volume way up to listen to music. For example, my father doesn’t like it.
    Try Again.
    c. Sometimes I like to listen to some of the same music my father likes. For example, sometimes I like listening to Janis Joplin or Roy Orbison.
    Correct! “For example” introduces an example (no big surprise). It is not hard to understand what this expression means, but be careful that the phrase or sentence following "for example" is really an example.
  1. In other words

  2. a. Sometimes when I hear a song that I’ve heard before, I remember where I was or
    what I was doing when I first heard it. In other words, my mother says the same thing
    happens to her.
    Try Again.
    b. My mother likes a lot of the same music that I do. In other words, she has similar taste.
    Correct! “In other words” introduces a restatement.
    c. My father, in other words, doesn’t understand why I like the kind of music I do.
    Try Again.

  3. Although

  4. a. Although some music has a calming effect, other music can make you agitated.
    Correct! “Although” introduces a contrast.
    b. Although I like loud music, I just have to have the volume turned way up to really appreciate it.
    Try Again.
    c. Although music in elevators is seldom any good, I don’t like it.
    Try Again.
  1. As a result

  2. a. Sometimes I like to pretend I’m playing the drums as I listen to music. As a result, I sometimes pretend I’m playing the piano.
    Try Again.
    b. Music is known to every culture. As a result, bird songs can also be considered music.
    Try Again.
    c. When my father is home, he insists on having the house quiet. As a result, I don’t get to listen to my music turned up loud.
    Correct! “As a result” has to describe a cause and effect relationship.
A jumbled collection of music on compact disks

Source: “Music collection,” entitee, Flickr

  1. Although it is true

  2. a. Although it is true that people’s taste in music can be very different, my aunt likes polkas.
    Try Again.
    b. Although it is true that music makes people happy, there are times when it is better to just have silence.
    Correct! “Although it is true” introduces a concession. A concession admits the (partial) truth of an opposite position.
    c. Although it is true that not many people have vinyl collections, most people have CDs or just MP3s.
    Try Again.

For the next exercise, try fitting these six transitional phrases into a paragraph. Use each phrase only once. Read the phrases out loud after you have made a placement: this is the best way to check your use of transitional expressions.

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An older woman gives a child piano lessons on a synthesizer keyboard.

Source: Piano lessons, RachelEllen, Flickr

Transitional expressions can, of course, be used to introduce whole paragraphs. A paragraph that gives an extended example will probably start with “For example.” A paragraph that is an extended restatement might start with “In other words,” and so forth.

Using transitional expressions correctly will guide readers through your ideas and make it easy for them to understand what you are saying in your writing.