I’ve spent time today reading a terrific little book of writing instruction for both the beginning and experienced writer. The book’s been around for a long while.
After some thought, I have a question regarding how this aspect of writing, discussed in the book, is handled by today’s editorial atmosphere. I’d like to address that aspect in particular.
In Brandon Royal’s Little Red Writing Book the subject of transitions, is placed near the beginning. Royal goes through the four types of transitions: contrast, illustration, continuation, and conclusion. All writers use transitions. They’re a necessary step in moving an essay, article, or story from start to finish.
Regardless of transition’s importance, in much of today’s editorial preference, specific transition words are currently discouraged. I’ve read recent articles written about the overuse of “however”, “though”, “therefore”, “but, etc. I’ve also been told by various other writers to limit my use of such traffic signals in my writing.
Two important questions arise for me. How do transitions happen without initial trigger words? Does a writer’s style dictate use of transition words?
Whether a writer has fifteen years freelance experience or a mere few months, small considerations such as transitions can make or break an acceptance in today’s competitive market. If former transition words are no longer received favorably, something else must take their place.
Let’s discuss the contrast transitions. If “however,” “but,” “on the other hand”, etc. don’t cut it anymore, there are ways to shift thoughts and change phraseology. After all, the brain does it all day long.
For instance: Rather than say “However, we couldn’t move the fallen tree without more industrial power,” create a substitute. Try something like “Moving the fallen tree required more industrial power than we possessed.”
The meaning remains the same. The sentence is stronger. The traditional transition is eliminated.
“Nevertheless” can be left behind for “Notwithstanding. The latter isn’t used as often. The key is to refrain from using it often. Of course, the writer doesn’t have to use any trigger words at all.
Example: “Nevertheless, the fallen tree would take more resources to remove than we had available.” becomes “Without bringing in additional resources, we couldn’t move the fallen tree.”
The latter transition takes three fewer words and doesn’t use trigger words.
Using Style Transitions
As seen above, the writer uses a shift of thought to bring about transition in subject direction. Transitions don’t have to be abrupt and jarring. The writer can slide through them without breaking for turns.
For example: “While writing this piece I’ve had to think up more unusual transitions than I’ve taken time for in many weeks. Normally, I don’t sit and ponder the use of traditional transition words. I could get stuck in each sentence, if I allowed myself that luxury.
Instead, I try to ignore the existence of traditional transition words. I think of them as unnecessary descriptors and work to leave them out of my writing. It’s difficult, especially when a person has to change a total perception of proper writing style.”
New Version: “As I write this I have to create many new transitions. To eliminate some of the difficulty, I try to ignore the existence of traditional transitions. Shifting thought allows the writer to say as much in a more fluid way.
If I think of transition words as unnecessary descriptors, my writing flows with strength and clarity. Changing styles of thought and writing takes practice, as well. Growth is necessary in the industry.
The second version says the same thing as the first. The difference is length and flow. Personally, I like it better than the first one. In the end, that’s all that matters. If it works better, the likelihood of an editor liking it, too, increases, which is the writer’s final desire.
Some days are easier than others in eliminating usual transition words. On those bad days, I have to wait to do rewrites. It’s a balancing act for me; I’m still learning to walk the tight rope.
A writer’s style also dictates much concerning transitions and how they work. Voice, attitude, and personal je ne sais que add both flavor and depth. Many writers will have to work hard to hold off using traditional transitions. For me, the constant mental exercise has provided a chance to stretch my writing ability. That’s a good thing.
Here’s hoping others out there have their balance poles and special shoes on. Take care out there in that writing jungle. Until later, think about this.
Each day we live, we make transitions in our lives to accommodate current situations. Do you want stereotype transitions that everyone else uses, or would you rather create your own so that yours is a unique life?