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transitional paragraph

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Definition:

A short paragraph in an essay, composition, or report that announces a shift from one section or idea to another.

A transitional paragraph is most commonly used to summarize the ideas of one part of a text in preparation for the beginning of another part.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "Many writing teachers use the analogy that transitional paragraphs are like bridges: the first section of the essay is one riverbank; the second section is the other riverbank; the transitional paragraph, like a bridge, links them."
    (Randy DeVillez, Writing: Step by Step, 10th ed. Kendall/Hunt, 2003)


  • Functions of Transitional Paragraphs
    "The transitional paragraph is a type that you will have occasion to use, especially in long essays. It is generally short, often only one sentence. . . . Such a paragraph may summarize what has been written:
    In short, the defining characteristic of the valedictory address is its statement of the opposition between the university on the one hand and the world on the other. [Lionel Trilling, 'A Valedictory']
    It may signal a change from general to more specific information:
    I am not talking pure theory. I will just give you two or three illustrations. [Clarence Darrow, 'Address to the Prisoners in the Cook Street Jail']
    It may hint at what is to come or announce the introduction of new material:
    Before the end of my trial period in the field I made two really exciting discoveries — discoveries that made the previous months of frustration well worth while. . . . [Jane Goodall, In the Shadow of Man]
    Or it may state explicitly what new material the writer is about to turn to:
    In what follows, the parallels are not always in physical events but rather in the effect on society, and sometimes in both. [Barbara Tuchman, 'History as Mirror']
    The transitional paragraph is a useful device for achieving coherence between paragraphs and groups of paragraphs."
    (Morton A. Miller, Reading and Writing Short Essays. Random House, 1980)


  • Additional Examples of Transitional Paragraphs
    "Unfortunately, the characteristics of the spoiled child do not vanish with childhood or even with adolescence. A university training does not necessarily transform petulance into ripe wisdom. Literary ability may only give fluent expression to a peevish spirit."
    (Samuel McChord Crothers, "The Spoiled Children of Civilization," 1912)


    "It was over a year before I was again in London. And the first shop I went to was my old friend's. I had left a man of sixty, I came back to one of seventy-five, pinched and worn and tremulous, who genuinely, this time, did not at first know me."
    (John Galsworthy, "Quality," 1912)


    "Thus musing, wise in theory, but practically as great a fool as Sam, I lifted my eyes and beheld the spires, warehouses, and dwellings of Rochester, half a mile distant on both sides of the river, indistinctly cheerful, with the twinkling of many lights amid the fall of the evening."
    (Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Rochester," 1834)


    "I do not always feel colored. Even now I often achieve the unconscious Zora of Eatonville before the Hegira. I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background."
    (Zora Neale Hurston, "How It Feels to Be Colored Me," 1928)


  • Transitional Paragraphs in Comparison Essays
    "After you have finished discussing topic A, add a transitional paragraph. A transitional paragraph is a short paragraph, usually consisting of a few sentences, that acts as a conclusion to topic A and an introduction to the next section, topic B. The advantage of the transitional paragraph is that it serves as a reminder of the key points you've made so that your reader can keep these points in mind while approaching topic B."
    (Luis A. Nazario, Deborah D. Borchers, and William F. Lewis, Bridges to Better Writing, 2nd ed. Wadsworth, 2012)


  • Practice in Composing Transitional Paragraphs
    "A transitional paragraph does not exist for itself. It connects two different lines of thought. It is a connecting link, just as a conjunction or a preposition is a connecting link.
    Now let us turn from the outside of the house, where we have seen so much that is beautiful, and look at the inside.
    "WRITTEN EXERCISE: WRITING A TRANSITIONAL PARAGRAPH
    Imagine that you are going to write a long composition on one of the subjects named below. Think of any two different lines of thought that you might develop in your long composition. Write a short, transitional paragraph that would serve to connect the two lines of thought.
    1 Handy with a knife.
    2 A day with a fisherman.
    3 In the old shack.
    4 The morning visitor.
    5 Father's pet hobbies.
    6 The story of a rug.
    7 Along the rail fence.
    8 The runaway.
    9 An early start.
    10 My aunt's cookies."
    (Frederick Houk Law, English for Immediate Use. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1921)
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