Use transition words
A topic sentence may provide a transition from one paragraph to another. But a transition word or phrase (usually in the topic sentence) clearly tells the audience whether the paragraph expands on the paragraph before, contrasts with it, or takes a completely different direction.
Bryan Garner (2001) divides transition words into three types:
Pointing words: words like this, that, these, those, and the.
Pointing words – especially this and that – refer directly to something already mentioned. They point to an antecedent. If your preceding paragraph describes the process of strip mining, and your next paragraph begins with "this process causes…," the word this makes a clear connection between paragraphs.
Echo links: words or phrases echo a previously mentioned idea.
Echo links often work together with pointing words. In the example above, you've just written a paragraph about how strip mining removes the top surface of the land to get at the coal under it. If you then begin the next paragraph with "this scaring of the earth," the words "scarring of the earth" are an echo of the mining process described in the previous paragraph.
Explicit connectives: words whose chief purpose is to supply transitions (such as further, also, therefore).
Explicit connectives between sentences and paragraphs can be overdone, but more often we simply overlook using them. Being too familiar with our own material, we think they aren't needed. Readers, on the other hand, find them helpful in following our train of thought. Here are some examples from Bryan Garner.
- When adding a point: also, and, in addition, besides, what is more, similarly, further
- When giving an example: for instance, for example, for one thing, for another thing
- When restating: in other words, that is, in short, put differently, again
- When introducing a result: so, as a result, thus, therefore, accordingly, then
- When contrasting: but, however, on the other hand, still, nevertheless, conversely
- When summing up: to summarize, to sum up, to conclude, in conclusion, in short
- When sequencing ideas: First,…Second,…Third,…Finally,…
- Garner, Bryan A., Legal Writing in Plain English, 2001, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 67-71.