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Rhetoric & Homiletics: Transitional Phrases Delineated

bucket brigade.jpg  Don’t Spill The Listeners

I have attempted to find anything written about or by Maxwell Ross, though he is quoted as using this example by a number of different writers when they are speaking about the use of transitions.

Here is the typical “Maxwell Ross Analogy About Transitions” which you will find repeatedly cited by such writers . . . .

“Famous copywriter Maxwell Ross likened this [transtional sentences] to a “bucket brigade.”

In the days before fire trucks and pressure hoses, people would put out fires by forming a human chain. They would pass a bucket of water from one person to the next until the last person finally threw it onto the fire.

In those days, it was vital the chain remained unbroken. If the bucket wasn’t passed smoothly from one person to the next, the water would spill.

Likewise, each paragraph (and really, each sentence) you write must pass the reader on to the next one.

Just like in a real bucket brigade, the chain must be unbroken, or you will “spill” readers along the way.”

 

People use transitional words [then, however, and, but, since] naturally.  We all pick up such words as we grow in the use of language.  We just may not think about how those words work logically.  Many may not realize that such words are part of language in order to give “logical direction.”

However, there are more than just transitional words which give logical direction.  There are phrases which do that as well, even if the phrase does not use those established words such as — “Now” – “Therefore” – “But” – etc.

A speaker or writer can use “transitional phrases,” which still let the audience know where you are going next.  Do a google search on “transitional phrases” and you will find very little that does not bring you back to the established lists of transitional words.  That is because those who work in non-grammatical fields understand their use and usefulness.  And therefore, many may not consciously employ them in speaking.

Transitional phrases have value on several different levels.  Obviously, they provide logical direction to the listeners.  But they also have the potential to excite the thinking of the speaking during the construction stage of the message.

The following is a unique listing of such transitional phrases – not transitional words, but phrases and sentences.

√ It is a unique listing because they come from the world of business, sales, publishing, and copywriting.

√ It is unique because only a few people have taken the time to compile such a list of potential transitional phrases.

 

Such transitional phrases help an audience understand the flow of ideas and how the ideas, the chunks, are related to each other.  The rhetorical ride is smoother when transitions are used, and/or are vocally emphasized (i.e. “BUT” — which is what we do at times when dealing with a passage that uses that “adversive transitional word”).

However, the list of potential transitional phrases can also be used to suggest “a direction of thinking” to the speaker in his/her preparation.  They are, in a sense, “mental topoi” which can generate idea on where to go with an audience.

Below are three compilations of such transitional phrases.

•  Most all come from the secular world of public speaking, business, sales, or leadership.

•  Some list out the transitional phrases in categories, others just list a bunch.

•  Some phrases are similar to each other, yet slightly different.

 

#1) If you want to see 502 transitional words and phrases which was compiled by  Kevin Carlton, which he apparently searched out from various bloggers, writers, speakers over the years, that is the link!

#2) Another list by Rob Powell, breaks them down into thirteen categories. A simply way to view his different categories is by looking at the first one on each grouping.

  1. I know what you’re thinking…
  2. And now, you’re thinking…
  3. I can almost hear you thinking…
  4. You guessed it…
  5. I’m sure you’re with me on this one…
  6. Here’s something we can both agree on…
  7. I think you’ll agree with me when I say…
  8. You must be wondering…
  9. Let me guess…

 

  1. Now, this is important…
  2. Here’s the interesting part…
  3. Here’s the bottom line…
  4. So what’s my point?
  5. Here’s why that’s important…
  6. And the best part is…
  7. You don’t want to miss this next part…
  8. It all boils down to this…

 

  1. That’s when I realized…
  2. And then it hit me…
  3. Here’s what we found instead…
  4. I finally understood that…
  5. Then it finally dawned on me…
  6. But guess what I realized just in the nick of time…
  7. You won’t believe what we discovered…

 

  1. But there’s a catch…
  2. So what’s the catch?
  3. There’s just one problem…
  4. The problem is…
  5. Here’s the main issue with that…
  6. And this is where people run into trouble…
  7. That’s when you might hit a snag…

 

  1. So what’s the solution?
  2. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution…
  3. The solution is simple…
  4. Here’s the big secret…
  5. The answer?
  6. The trick is to…
  7. Here’s how you solve this…
  8. Here’s how it works…

 

  1. But wait, there’s more…  (Ron Popiel)
  2. But that’s not all…
  3. It gets better…
  4. And I’m not stopping there…
  5. As if that’s not enough…
  6. And on top of that…

 

  1. For example…
  2. Take Billy’s story, for example…
  3. Here’s a little case study of this strategy in action…
  4. Case in point…
  5. Just look at what happened to…

 

  1. Let me clarify…
  2. I’ll explain…
  3. Let me elaborate…
  4. Let me walk you through…
  5. Here’s what I mean…
  6. Let me lift the veil for you…
  7. Let me break this down for you…

 

  1. For example…
  2. Take Billy’s story, for example…
  3. Here’s a little case study of this strategy in action…
  4. Case in point…
  5. Just look at what happened to…

 

  1. Here’s how to do it yourself…
  2. Here’s how you can do the same thing…
  3. How?
  4. Here’s how…
  5. You’re about to find out how…
  6. But how do you… ?
  7. Let me tell you how…

 

  1. Stay with me now…
  2. Stick with me here, because…
  3. Keep reading…
  4. Don’t stop reading now…
  5. I know that’s a lot to take in, but bear with me…

 

  1. But what does that mean?
  2. But what exactly is…?
  3. Why is that?
  4. Why does this work?
  5. How do I know?
  6. Is it true?
  7. But what if… ?
  8. But where can you find… ?
  9. So when do you use… ?

 

  1. You see my point, right?
  2. Do you see how huge this is?
  3. Don’t you wish… ?
  4. Is that something you’d like for your business?
  5. How awesome is that?
  6. Do you ever wonder… ?
  7. Sound good?
  8. Amazing, isn’t it?

 

  1. Guess what happened?
  2. Here’s what happened next…
  3. The result?
  4. Even I was surprised at what happened next…
  5. You won’t believe how the story ends…
  6. These were our results…

 

#3) This third list comes from the world of biblical preaching and teaching.  You can add to it yourself because you probably use such phrases throughout a message.

• Now watch what Paul says — it is not what you think
• Let me clarify that by showing you the word which Jesus used
• James is not going to leave it there.  He is going to go on to make the point that 
• You know the New Testament truth that parallels this Old Testament example
• If this were me, I would be saying / doing / thinking
• Here is what happens next — and it is expected / unexpected
• Let me illustrate that with a story / analogy
• Did you ever wish that there was just a little more written on this — There is
• How did Job get there?  If we can figure out how he . . . .  then we . . . .
• Why is that included?  It is there because . . . .
• Notice that the story doesn’t end there
• Keep reading because we are going to see
• What does that look like in real life — in our lives

 

The value of doing a mental “flyover” of these varied transitional phrases (secular or sacred) is that . . . .

they get you thinking about where you want to and/or could go in your message
and
they push you towards consciously directing your audience’s thinking.

 

 



1 thought on “Rhetoric & Homiletics: Transitional Phrases Delineated

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