Transitions: Using Links and Overlapping to Make Sentences Flow Part 25a of the Legal Methods Lecture Series By Clare Coleman
Writing for Your Audience RULE: Readers absorb information best when you give them familiar information before new information. → (familiar) ↓ (new) → (familiar) ↓ (new) → (familiar) or eeeeeeeee [overlapping familiar and new]
Transition Words and Phrases • Transitions help your readers connect one idea to the next by linking the previous idea to the next. • Transitions also introduce concepts into your discussion, such as: contrast, comparison, cause and effect, additional information, examples, emphasis, evaluation, restatement, concession, time, place, sequence, conclusion.
Text linked by transition words Johnson and two others were sitting in his parked car when two police officers approached. Without any grounds for an arrest or even a Terry stop, the officers ordered the three occupants to get out of the car. While one of the officers searched under Johnson’s seat and found drugs there, the other officer searched the two passengers and found drugs and counterfeit money on their persons. The officers then searched the trunk and found more counterfeit money plus a color copier. Johnson contends that the evidence seized in the trunk should not have been used against him, since the police had no basis for seizing him and searching under his seat. U.S. v Johnson, 380 F.3d 1013, 1014–15 (7th Cir. 2004) (Posner, J.)
Some Transition Words and Phrases “First” “Finally” “However”; “Therefore”; “In contrast”; “As in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, here, …” “In sum” “Initially” “Nevertheless” “Granted” “More importantly” “Further …”
Transition Sentences Transition sentences connect a familiar idea in one paragraph to a new idea in the next paragraph. EX: “Even if self-dealing transactions are done in “good faith,’ with ‘good reason,’ and with ‘good intentions,’ the burden is still on the director who stands on both sides of a transaction to establish the transaction’s “entire fairness.’”
Overlapping • Def: Repeating a term or concept from the previous sentence to introduce a new points. EX: On December 31, 1984, the defendant surrendered to the Concord, New Hampshire, police. Later that day, he made two tape-recorded statements to the New Hampshire and New York authorities. During those interviews, the defendant stated that he began carrying a gun illegally in New York in about 1981, shortly after he was injured during a mugging. On December 22, 1984, he was carrying that gun when he boarded the subway train at 14th Street, intending to meet some friends in lower Manhattan for a holiday drink. Appellant’s Brief, People v Goetz, 501 N.Y.S.2d 326 (N.Y. App. Div. 1986).
Sources • Terri LeClercq, Guide to Legal Writing Style • Stephen V. Armstrong & Timothy P. Terrell, Thinking Like a Writer: A Lawyer's Guide to Effective Writing & Editing (2d ed.) • Anne Enquist and Laurel Currie Oates, Just Writing: Grammar, Punctuation, and Style for the Legal Writer (2d ed.) • Richard K. Neumann, Jr. and Sheila Simon, Legal Writing. • Phillip Frost, Plain Language in Transition, Michigan Bar Journal.