Consider your readers as tourists in a foreign land and your essay as a journey they take from one place to another. Because you can’t expect strangers to find their own way, you must lead them. As their guide, you must tell them where they are going (the introduction) and remind them of the progress they’re making (the body of the essay).

In long essays, readers need more reminders than in short ones. To keep readers well informed, you needn’t repeat what you’ve already written but rather plant key ideas, slightly rephrased, as milestones along the way. (The sentence you just read contains just such a marker. The phrase “To keep readers well informed” cues you to keep in mind the topic of this paragraph—helping readers find their way.) By regularly alluding to the main idea of paragraphs, you’ll keep readers focused and hold their attention from start to finish.

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English is crowded with transitional words and phrases. Use them!

You can help readers along, too, by choosing words that set up relationships between one thought and the next. This can be done with such words as this, which actually ties the sentence you are now reading to the previous one. The word too in the first sentence of this paragraph serves the same function; it acts as a link between this paragraph and the one before. Fortunately, the English language is brimming with transitional words and phrases for tying sentences and ideas together.

What follows is a collection of common transitional words and phrases grouped according to their customary use. With a bit of thought, you could probably add to the list.

When you ADD ideas: moreover, in addition, further, besides, also, and then, then too, again, next, secondly, equally important

When you make a CONTRASThowever, conversely, in contrast, on the other hand, on the contrary, but, nevertheless, and yet, still, even so

When you COMPARE or draw a PARALLELsimilarly, likewise, in comparison, in like manner, at the same time, in the same vein

When you cite an EXAMPLEfor example, for instance, as when, as illustrated by

When you show RESULTSas a result, in consequence, consequently, accordingly, therefore, thus, hence

When you REINFORCE an idea: indeed, in fact, as a matter of fact, to be sure, of course, in any event, by all means

When you express SEQUENCE or the passing of TIMEsoon after, then, previously, not long after, meanwhile, in the meantime, later, simultaneously, at the same time, immediately, next, at length, thereafter

When you show PLACEShere, nearby, at this spot, near at hand, in proximity, on the opposite side, across from, adjacent to, underneath

When you CONCLUDEfinally, in short, in other words, in a word, to sum up, in conclusion, in the end, when all is said and done

You don’t need a specific transitional word or phrase to bind every sentence to another. Ideas themselves can create strong links. Notice in the following paired sentences that underlined words in the second sentences echo an idea expressed in the first.

[1] As a kind of universal language, music unites people from age eight to eighty. [2] No matter how old they are, people can lose themselves in melodies, rhythms, tempos, and endless varieties of sound.

[1] At the heart of Romeo and Juliet is a long-standing feud between the Capulets and the Montagues. [2] As enemies, the two families always fight in the streets of Verona.

[1] To drive nails into very hard wood without bending them, first dip the points into grease or soap. [2] You can accomplish the same end by moistening the points of the nails in your mouth or in a can of water.

One of your goals on the SAT is to assure readers a smooth trip through your essay. Without your help—that is, without transitions—readers may find themselves lurching from one idea to another. Before long, they’ll give up or get lost like travelers on an unmarked road. Even though not every sentence needs a specific transition, three or four successive sentences without a link of some kind can leave readers wondering whether the trip through your essay is worth taking.

Practice in Using Transitions

Directions: Use as many transitions as you can while writing paragraphs on the following suggested topics.

1. Write a paragraph on how to do something—drive a car from home to school, pull a practical joke, avoid doing homework, burn a CD, get on the good side of a teacher, give your cat/dog a bath. Use as many SEQUENCE/TIME transitions as possible, but don’t overdo it.

2. Write a paragraph detailing a cause and its effect: the cause and effect of good teaching, of a new fad, of stress in high school students, of taking risks, of lying, of a close friendship. Use as many RESULT transitions as you can, but don’t go overboard.

3. Write a paragraph that compares and contrasts one of the following: the way people respond to pressure, groups in your school, two athletes, then and now, boredom and laziness, two books, a friend who turned into an enemy, an enemy who became a friend. Use as manyCOMPARISON/CONTRAST transitions as you can, but don’t get carried away.

4. Write a paragraph in which you argue for or against an issue—electronic eavesdropping, school dress codes, educational vouchers, privileges for senior citizens, censoring the Internet, dieting, restrictions on smoking. Use as many ADDITION transitions as you can, but only where they make sense.