We designed this resource to help you learn and practice using transitions to make your writing more cohesive.
Start by reading the following text on U.S. TV comedy, where we’ve highlighted some transitions students find challenging. As you read, notice the bolded transition words and phrases—you will practice using these later.
The Subversion of TV Comedy
Many people look for a feeling of escape in TV, movies, or music. For this reason, some critics view pop culture as unworthy of serious study. However,1 cultural studies scholars and media critics have shown compellingly how pop culture reflects and shapes social hierarchies.
Looking specifically at TV sitcoms illuminates the long history of pop culture reflecting changing social norms. For instance, in the 1960s and 1970s, shows like That Girl and The Mary Tyler Moore Show projected two likeable, single, working women into living rooms as the U.S. was becoming accustomed to young women choosing to enter—and stay—in the workforce. Moreover,2 seeing Mary Tyler Moore as an independent, career-minded woman had particular symbolic value because of her previous role as beloved stay-at-home mom and wife in The Dick Van Dyke Show. Though3 The Dick Van Dyke Show centered on Rob Petrie as the “head of household,” Moore’s character Laura regularly pushed the boundaries set by previous TV wives, not the least4 in her wardrobe. As Laura, Moore was the first woman to wear pants on the TV screen. She became not just a feminist icon but a fashion icon as well.
Besides introducing TV audiences to new cultural norms, comedy can also challenge our existing cultural assumptions. In fact,5 because the genre functions by subverting our expectations, it has the potential to make incisive social commentary. One way comedy does this is by making light of sensitive subjects, potentially causing offense. Of course, not everyone takes the offense seriously: “Besides, it’s just a joke,” they might say. For others, though, questioning exactly what makes “a joke” funny can clarify precisely what dominant class, gender, and/or racial assumptions are being made. That is to say,6 comedy can raise bigger questions about who gets to decide what is funny. Indeed,7 pop culture opens up important conversations about censorship, social values, and expectations.
Check your understanding
Check your understanding of these transitions (numbered in the model passage) by answering the following multiple choice questions. Consider how each transitional word or phrase is used in the context of the broader paragraph and passage.
Choose the answer that best describes the transition’s function.
- However, cultural studies scholars and media critics have shown compellingly how pop culture reflects and shapes social hierarchies.
a. signals disagreement with the idea that pop culture is unworthy of serious study.
b. signals disagreement with what cultural scholars and media critics believe.
c. introduces an explanation of why pop culture is unworthy of serious study.
- Moreover, seeing Mary Tyler Moore as an independent, career-minded woman had particular symbolic value because of her previous role as beloved stay-at-home mom and wife in The Dick Van Dyke Show.
a. adds a new detail to highlight women’s changing roles in society.
b. elaborates on the previous idea about women’s roles in society.
c. both adds a new idea and elaborates on the previous idea.
- Though The Dick Van Dyke Show centered on Rob Petrie as the “head of household,” Moore’s character Laura regularly pushed the boundaries set by previous TV wives
a. introduces an idea about the The Dick Van Dyke Show that the writer refutes.
b. reorients the argument towards men’s changing roles in society
c. signals that gender roles on the show are not entirely traditional
- Moore’s character Laura regularly pushed the boundaries set by previous TV wives, not the least in her wardrobe
Here, “not the least”
a. signals that the character, Laura, didn’t push boundaries with her clothes/wardrobe.
b. signals that the character, Laura, pushed boundaries mainly with her dress/wardrobe.
c. signals that the character, Laura, pushed boundaries in more ways than one.
- comedy can also challenge our existing cultural assumptions. In fact, because the genre functions by subverting our expectations, it has the potential to make incisive social commentary
Here, “in fact”
a. introduces a fact about the comedy genre.
b. adds a detail about how the comedy genre challenges our expectations or assumptions.
c. provides an example of a cultural assumption people make.
- That is to say, comedy can raise bigger questions about who gets to decide what is funny.
Here, “that is to say”
a. serves to rephrase and emphasize a previously stated idea.
b. introduces a new piece of evidence to support the writer’s argument.
c. underscores an idea that the author disagrees with.
- Indeed, pop culture opens up important conversations about censorship, social values, and expectations.
a. reiterates the argument the writer has been building on in the essay
b. presents a new idea for the reader to consider.
c. signals the author agrees with popular conversations about pop culture.
Practice using trickier transitions
First, choose five (or more) transitions from the model text, or from the list below.
Next, write a paragraph that uses all five transitions appropriately, responding to one of the following prompts:
- How do TV comedies in the U.S. differ from comedies in other countries or cultural contexts? In one paragraph, consider differences or similarities in purpose, humor, genre, and audience.
- Consider your favorite TV show from the angle of the social commentary it makes or the cultural norms it challenges. In one paragraph, describe the ways this show achieves these goals.
List of transition words
• in addition
• and not only…but also
• both X and Y
• as well as
• for example
• for instance
• to illustrate
• such as
• in particular
• one example is
• for one
• not the least
that is to say
• in other words
• put more simply
• to put it another way
• in brief
• in sum
• in contrast
• yet at the same time
• on the one
• hand/on the other
• on the contrary
• of course
• in fact
• most importantly
• above all
• similar to
• by comparison • in a similar manner
• in the same way
• by the same token
• in similar fashion
• because of
• due to
• on account of
• as a result
• as a consequence
• for this reason
This resource from the Baruch College Writing Center is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You are free to share, adapt, transform, or otherwise use this material in any medium, with attribution.