Saturday, January 3, 2015


Fear not, Gentle Writer, Mrs. Grammar Person knows you've been working hard and is sure that you deserve a break. To that end, she has invited you to join her for tea and, while you rest up, she will tell you a story. Mrs. G.P. reminds us that all writing should tell a story and have a proper beginning, middle, and end. But, what is the glue that holds it all together? Mrs. G. P. is glad you asked that--you talented grammarians! She will explain everything by and by, but, for now, she asks that you sit back, sip your Darjeeling and relax. Chocolate biscuit, anyone?

What kind of story would you like to hear? Our favorite grammarian has a wonderful idea, one that includes audience participation--a "build-your-own-story", if you like. Once she begins her tale, please pay attention and, whenever she pauses, you may fill in the blank from the choices she provides. Are you ready?
Once upon a time, there was a lonely monkey/orphan/misshapen potato making his way through the world as best he could. If anyone asked him, he would say that all he ever wanted in life was the chance to marry a stockbroker/judge a beauty contest/compete on Jeopardy, but he knew that this dream was out of reach, so he looked for a job instead.  Nobody would to give him a chance; they all said he was too cantankerous/sleep-deprived/mountaineering. Frustrated, our hero turned to a life of crime and stole the king's favorite grilled cheese sandwich/talking parrot/thesaurus.
After that fateful day, our hero had to live on the run, or risk prison. In the beginning, he believed he needed only three things to survive. First, he needed his wits; second, his nerve; and finally, his silly string/pet ocelot/castanets. Also, he could have used a friend. In addition, finding a hot meal seemed fairly urgent. To be sure, he wasn't used to such a hard life. If only he could find his favorite food: figgy pudding/milk moustache/fried grasshoppers, he knew he would feel better. Equally important was a place to rest his head, preferably somewhere without bedbugs/fleas/a mint on the pillow. Finally, after searching everywhere, our hero found the perfect job, one that provided food and shelter, friendship and camaraderie. Above all, it gave him a reason to get up in the morning. In short, it was the best job ever, notwithstanding the fact that he was covered with dirt and mud all the time. In sum, he was deliriously happy working as a golf ball retriever/gopher tracker/dumpster diver and was quite good at it. As a result, he eventually earned the king's pardon. It also helped that he returned the king's grilled cheese sandwich/talking parrot/thesaurus. At last, our tale is done.  
More tea, anyone? Now that you have enjoyed our little story, it's time to talk about that glue, the handy words and phrases that connect our disparate thoughts and make them flow like a gentle brook through a verdant meadow, like caramel syrup over creamy custard, like--well, you get the picture. What are these useful links called? Anyone? Yes! They are transition words and are in bold above. While all of them are connectors, they serve different functions.
Some transitional words are used to indicate similarity. A few examples are: in addition, likewise, furthermore, in the same way, and as well as.
Contrastingly, some transitional words are used to indicate dissimilarity or contradiction. A few examples are: in contrast, on the other hand, although, and yet, and however.
Other transitional words are used for emphasis. A few examples are: in fact, indeed, of course, truly, and even.
And some transitional words are used for place or position. A few examples are: above, adjacent to, beyond, below, and in front.
Yet other transitional words are used to indicate consequence. A few examples are: as a result, consequently, accordingly, thus, and therefore.
Still other transitional words are used to indicate sequence. A few examples are: after, during, earlier, to begin with, and next.
Other transitional words are used to indicate exemplifying. A few examples are: specifically, such as, namely, to illustrate, and for example. 

In this next group, transitional words are used to show the priority of the writer's thoughts. A few examples are: above all, in the first place, of less/greater importance, moreover, and for one reason.
In the following group, transitional words are used to provide additional support or evidence.  A few examples are: additionally, equally important, furthermore, in addition, and moreover.
In our final group, transitional words are used to show conclusion or summary, usually of an essay. A few examples are: in conclusion, in short, in summary, to conclude, and thus. 

Congratulations! You have mastered the concept of transitions--and without even trying. Look at Mrs. Grammar Person beaming with pride. But, don't go yet, please have another biscuit as Mrs. G.P. has one more thing to tell you and it is this: no matter what you write, be it a novel, a treatise, an essay, or a poem, you always have the same three goals: present the problem, work through the problem, resolve the problem. Once you've learned how to write a beginning, a middle and an end, you'll be able to tell your own stories. And what could be better than that? Nothing--except for tea with Mrs. Grammar Person, of course.


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