Transition definition: Transitions are words or phrases that are used to connect one idea to the next when writing.
What is a Transition?
Transitions are words or phrases that are inserted into writing in order to connect thoughts and ideas. These allow for the reader to easily follow the progression of the writing by adding flow.
Example of a Transition
When writing a step-by-step guide to how to do something, people often used numerical transitions such as first, second, and third in order to help the audience understand the separate steps involved.
Where Are Transitions Used?
Between sections: In lengthy writing, transitions are used between sections in order to summarize what has been already explained as well as introduce future material. For example, in history textbooks, the writers may include transitions between chapters in order to provide connections between the historical events.
Between ideas: Transitions are important to use between ideas in order to separate the individual thoughts. An example could be when giving people options to choose between, a person would want to add a transition in order to identify they have moved on to a new choice.
Between paragraphs: When including transitions between paragraphs, it is important to identify the connection between the two in order to effectively move from one paragraph to the next. Often times, a good way to this is to read the last sentence of the first paragraph and the first sentence of the second in order to find a connection. For example, when offering two sides to a situation, the transition word however could be a good connector between two paragraphs.
Within paragraphs: It is also important to include transitions within paragraphs so the thoughts within the section flow from one to the next in an organized manner. If the writer is talking about an idea and then wants to provide an example to illustrate, the transition for example will help the reader transition.
The Function of Transitions in Literature
Transitions are important in literature in order to help the reader understand the writing. They allow for the story to flow from one thought to the next allowing for the reader to build upon the ideas without having to think too hard in order to put them together.
Without effective transitions, writing may become ineffective and confusing.
In James Hurst’s “The Scarlet Ibis” the power of transitions is evident in order to show a character’s change of thought. First, let’s take a look at an example in which the transition word has been removed:
- “It was bad enough having an invalid brother, but having one who possibly was not all there was unbearable, so I began to make plans to kill him by smothering him with a pillow…one afternoon as I watched him, my head poked between the iron posts of the foot of the bed, he looked straight at me and grinned.”
Second, let’s look at the line with the transition word in order to compare the difference:
- “It was bad enough having an invalid brother, but having one who possibly was not all there was unbearable, so I began to make plans to kill him by smothering him with a pillow. However, one afternoon as I watched him, my head poked between the iron posts of the foot of the bed, he looked straight at me and grinned.”
By adding the transition word however, it signals to the reader that the narrator’s attitude toward his brother changed. Without the transition word, the change would be ambiguous.
Transition Examples in Literature
In John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, he uses the transition phrase “some days later” in order to denote a change in time between chapters.
- “Some days later Bruno was lying on the bed in his room, staring at the ceiling above his head”
Carrie Brownstein includes the transition “nevertheless” in her memoir Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl in order to show that she is adding to a previous point that she made:
- “I really didn’t want to go to Western Washington University. I had no plan, and I left for the northern part of the state knowing only that I would not be there long. Departing for a departure. Nevertheless, I went through the motions.”
Summary: What are Transitions?
Define transition in literature: In summation, transitions are words are phrases that are used to connect thoughts or ideas together in a manner that helps the writing flow for the reader to limit confused or misunderstanding.
In Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, he uses the transition word however in order to show contrast between two ideas:
- “Yes, he said, he was sure of it: The man in the photograph had come to his hotel…It was the children, however, that he remembered the most clearly, and now he told the detectives why.