Transitional Words and Phrases

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longknife
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Transitional Words and Phrases

Post by longknife » February 26th, 2015, 8:40 pm

I need some help.

In reviewing/revising/editing a novel, I am using a grammar analytical program which consistently tells me I am not using enough transitional words and phrases.

I understand what they are but wonder why they are considered so important.

I like to keep my sentences short and simple, not letting them run on forever.

What are your feelings/thoughts about this?

Thanks
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polymath
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Re: Transitional Words and Phrases

Post by polymath » February 27th, 2015, 10:34 am

Transitional terms are a composition method used for formal writing to connect phrases, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs, etc., -- ideas -- together. They persuade readers to continue reading and tie related or contrasted ideas together through a smooth flow. Their use may not be a best practice for prose composition.

Drawbacks of their use in prose are a tendency to make off-the-cuff connections which telegraph connections readers prefer to make on their own, they prematurely tip off readers to dramatic developments, show a prose writer's hand on the tiller, so to speak, and misplace emphasis. Transitional terms function to smooth flow, though disrupt flow if misused or they telegraph dramatic developments. They also clutter and confuse if misused, overused, or abused.

Transitional terms' use even in formal composition may be misused, if connections are strained or unnecessary. When, as, and but are commonly misused in formal and prose composition.

For examples;

Larry was sick with flu when he woke up. Adverb and conjunction "when's" use there connects two ideas in a post hoc; ergo, propter hoc fallacy. Larry woke up and he was sick. Being sick and waking are not causally connected either post hoc (sick _after_ waking and therefore caused by waking) or cum hoc (sick _with_ waking and therefore caused by waking.) Nor is sick with the flu a brief time though waking is a brief time. Larry was sick at the time he woke up is a less ambiguous moment. "When he woke up" is a vague and relative time that warrants stronger absolute time development.

As the sun set, birds flew into treetops. "As" is a correlative conjunction, not a time conjunction or time subordination conjunction or preposition. "As" used clearly and strongly correlates ideas, simile, for example. The bird's plumage was as fiery as flame.

The car was fueled but wouldn't start. "But" generally is a weak word regardless and widely disparaged anyway. Furthermore, the separate ideas' connections defuse tension potentials from the rushed summary expressed.

However, a less savvy or a pretentious character may think or speak using transitional terms even if misused.

Many of the hundred most common English words are transitional terms and as well subject to misuse. Part of why they're common is because they are multiple parts of speech, maybe conjunction, preposition, and adverb, for example, which are used for transitional connections.
Last edited by polymath on March 1st, 2015, 4:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
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longknife
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Re: Transitional Words and Phrases

Post by longknife » February 28th, 2015, 8:40 pm

Thanks for an informative post - as usual.

I think the key word is "formal" which may not always relate to prose. I realize a lot of words tends to be over used and I also noted comments about what words tend to start sentences.

It's interesting what all the little tricks are that turn a dull sentence/paragraph into a gem.

But, how on earth do you continually do that for 100,000 words and more?
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Re: Transitional Words and Phrases

Post by polymath » March 1st, 2015, 4:14 am

longknife wrote: But, how on earth do you continually do that for 100,000 words and more?
Rhetoric.

Figures of speech number thousands of trope and scheme possibilities. More than only the comparatively easy metaphor and allegory, and easiest simile: metalepsis, synchrisis, triciolon, synecdoche, metonymy, syndeton, anaphora, epistrophe, symploce, etc. Schemes like the former at sentence or clause level, as well as macro structures, extended rhetorical figures like irony instances and extended. and like repetition, substitution, and amplification, anesis, epitasis, and prose's artful punctuation methods -- I could go on.

For an extensive and intensive rhetoric study guide, consider Silva Rhetoricae, The Forest of Rhetoric, Dr, Gideon Brown, hosted by Brigham Young University Humanities.

For prose's artful punctuation uses, consider Noah Lukeman's A Dash of Style.

I might also add this: rhetoric and grammar. Three grammar- and rhetoric-connected writing methods at an advanced level are aesthetic distance, direct-indirect discourse (show and tell, respectively), and static-dynamic voice. They are among the more, if not most, challenging-to-develop skills confronting writers.

Long journey, though rewarding.
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longknife
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Re: Transitional Words and Phrases

Post by longknife » March 1st, 2015, 2:34 pm

Sigh.

I don't know - maybe it's just me.

I get an idea, it germinates, and I sit down to write. Usually after a good start, I set about establishing my characters so they tend to draw the narrative forward.

I have one WIP that is really getting to me. As it's historical fiction, I'm constrained in creating the story by the facts of what happened, when and where. I cannot create situations and characters too far out of the limits established by the story.

I then set it aside and wrote a somewhat free-form short story just to use what all the extensive research on the other stories gave me.

Now, I'm going back over a story I wrote in 2009 to try and clean up what I've learned since then.

So, all your comments are appreciated.
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VictoriaMarieLees
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Re: Transitional Words and Phrases

Post by VictoriaMarieLees » May 2nd, 2015, 10:05 am

I'm more of a Hemmingway-type of writer myself, short and crisp sentences. I don't know if it is because I write mostly YA short stories. However, I understand the need for transitional words and phrases to unify a piece of writing. That's not saying I can do it each time. It's important to get the story down first and then revise using the information in this post. I agree with one comment. How, indeed, does a writer carry this through a 100,000 word novel.

This is a wonderfully informative post, complete with many academic writing styles listed. I recognize some of them. I'll need to look up the rest. Thank you for sharing this information.

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