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Transition words: why and how to use them

Using transition words in your writing can help you enhance the readability of your content. They help your text flow, and show readers the relationship between phrases and paragraphs. That’s why the readability checks in Yoast SEO provide feedback on your use of transition words. But what are transition words, and why are they so important? And how should you use them?

Table of contents

What are transition words?

Words like ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘so’ and ‘because’ are transition words. Because they show your readers the relationship between phrases, sentences, or even paragraphs.

In a way, transition words are the glue that holds your text together. Without them, your text is a collection of sentences. With them, the individual parts come together to form one whole.

An example

Let’s look at an example:

I pushed the domino. As a result, it fell over.

When you start a sentence with ‘as a result’, your reader will immediately know two things: First, what happened in the first sentence caused something. And second, the second sentence is going to describe the effect.

By using the phrase ‘as a result’, you show that the two separate sentences are part of one process. Without having even read the rest of the sentence, your reader can already guess what’s coming.

Transition words can connect (almost) anything

From short phrases to entire paragraphs! For example:

I enjoy his company, because he always tells interesting stories.

In this case, ‘because’ doesn’t connect two sentences, but two clauses. It explains to your reader why you enjoy his company, making it a lot easier for them to follow your text.

Transition word at the end of a sentence

You don’t always have to place transition words at the beginning of a sentence. For example:

He’s a very nice guy. He took us out to dinner yesterday, for instance.

Even though ‘for instance’ is placed at the end of the sentence, it still provides the reader with information as to how the two sentences are related.

Does it really make a difference?

You might be thinking: are transition words really that important? Well, let’s look at a text with and without transition words. Below, you see two texts. Text A doesn’t have transition words, and text B does.

Text A
I’m going to discuss a few reasons why practice is important to learning skills. The only way to truly master a skill is by actually doing what you’ll have to do in the real world. I think practice can be a fun way of putting in the necessary hours. There are people who disagree. It is said that people tend to remember only 10-20% of what they’ve heard or read. That number rises to as much as 90% when you put theory to practice. Following up explanation with practice is key to mastering a skill.

Text B
In this paragraph, I’m going to discuss a few reasons why practice is important to mastering skills. Firstly, the only way to truly learn a skill is by actually doing what you’ll have to do in the real world. Secondly, I think practice can be a fun way of putting in the necessary hours. There are, however, people who disagree. Thirdly, and most importantly, it is said that people tend to remember only 10-20% of what they read or hear. Moreover, that number rises to as much as 90% when you put theory to practice. In conclusion, following up explanation with practice is key to mastering a skill.

Text A is not a terrible paragraph. But it’s not easy to read, is it?
Plus, text B does a better job of showing there are three separate arguments to support the statement with a definite conclusion. The reader never has to wonder whether a sentence still belongs to the previous argument or a new one. It even shows the relationship between sentences within one argument. In conclusion, people will find text B easier to read, so they’ll stay on your page longer.

Types of transition words

Transition words can be divided into several categories, based on the type of transition you want to make. There are often several words available for one transition. Sometimes they mean exactly the same, and sometimes there are slight differences. If you’re not a native speaker or struggle with language in general, you’ll probably have to study and practice their use.

Transition Example word/phrase Example sentence
Cause and effect Therefore, as a result, so, consequently I’m tired. Therefore, I’m going to bed.
Clarification That is to say, in other words, to clarify We’re letting you go. In other words, you’re fired.
Contrast But, however, on the other hand I am not fond of fruit. However, I do like bananas.
Example For example, for instance In the evening, I like to relax. For instance, I enjoy watching TV.
Emphasis Above all, most importantly, certainly There are many reasons to exercise regularly. Above all, it keeps you healthy.
Enumeration Firstly/secondly, further, and, moreover, in addition Today, I’m going to write a post. In addition, I’m recording some video lessons.
Time Meanwhile, during, subsequently, after that I’ll start by telling you what transition words are. After that, I’ll tell you why you should always use them.
Similarity Likewise, similarly, in the same vein She tried really hard to entertain her guests. Similarly, he put all his heart and soul in cooking a great dinner.
Summarize/conclude In conclusion, to sum up, in short In conclusion, transition words are an important aspect of SEO copywriting.
Table 1: transition words with example sentences

Check out this article for transition words in other languages.

Why are transition words important for SEO?

As we’ve just seen, transition words make it easier to read and understand a text. They’re one of the key factors to readability. And readability is very important for SEO.

What’s more, transition words play a crucial role in structuring your text. A well-structured text will be easier to understand, which will make your blog easier to read. This helps to attract readers, and therefore contributes to SEO!

What does the transition word check in Yoast SEO do?

The transition words check in Yoast SEO assesses whether or not you use enough transition words. If at least 30% of the sentences in your text contain a transition word, the traffic light will be green. You get an orange light if you use them in more than 20%, or in less than 30% of your sentences. The light will be red if less than 20% of the sentences of your text contain a transition word. That would be less than 1 in 5 sentences.

Want to read more on how we came to the exact measurements of the transition words check and the other readability checks? Then you should read our article about the methodological choices of the readability analysis.

How to improve your usage

While everyone uses transition words, not everyone uses them frequently enough. And people might not know how to use them correctly. That’s why it’s important that you know your transition words and when to use them, and that you’re aware of the relationship between your thoughts and ideas within your text.

Let’s go over both of these in a bit more detail.

Know the words (and when to use them)

This sounds obvious, but it’s a good one to remember: know all the different transition words and their meaning! Even if you’re a native speaker, it might be good to refresh your memory every once in a while. Especially since transition words are often quite nuanced, and really depend on context.

Understand the relationship between your thoughts within your text

Too often, people start writing and just see what happens. If you want to use transition words more effectively, you should break down your text into an introduction, body, and conclusion. Then, you need to make sure you know what goal every paragraph serves.

Next, survey your text on a sentence level. Find opportunities to make transitions that make sense. If you struggle with this, try reading texts by other authors and see how they use transition words.

Need help?

If you want to learn more about transition words and how to write great content, then our SEO Copywriting course can help you. You get access to this course and all of our other SEO courses with Yoast SEO Premium, which also gives you access to extra features in the Yoast SEO plugin.

If you use Shopify and want to work on the readability of your site, you can check out our Yoast SEO for Shopify app.


Transition words are very important for the readability of your text. They explain, give examples, and help your readers understand your texts. If you struggle with transition words, make sure you study and practice! In addition, pay attention to the structure of your text. If you understand the point and goal of your paragraphs, it will be easier to pick the best transition words available.

Read more: How to use the readability analysis in Yoast SEO »

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