Last time, we talked about transitioning from topic to topic, which means from paragraph to paragraph. This time, let’s talk about the “micro-transitions” that occur inside the paragraph, sometimes from sentence to sentence and sometimes inside sentences.
Let’s take a look at the following (very bad) paragraph:
The technology of a basic black-and-white TV used a photodetector to measure and report the image brightness at any given spot in the image. The three-color system of red, green, and blue (RGB) pixels relies on changing the intensity of the three monochromes through cold cathode fluorescent lights. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) can be used to backlight the display, and gas pixels are used in plasma TVs.
These four sentences share subject matter (TV technology), and they all provide relevant information. But as a paragraph, they don’t work because they aren’t connected. The passage not only doesn’t “flow,” it goes nowhere.
The reason is simple.
Subjects Are Not Topics
Paragraphs need topics, and it’s not a topic if it doesn’t have a point. Before I can connect my sentences, I need to figure out what point I’m making. It’s clearly something about the evolution of TV tech, but what’s my opinion?
I have some options.
This could be a paragraph about how TVs have become more complicated over time, which is true, if a little dull. It could be about how people had one choice of TV at one time, and now they have options. It could be about how the concept of a TV screen had to be rethought to change from black-and-white to color. It could be a lot of things.
It doesn’t matter which opinion I select (because this is just an example), but I must select one because that opinion will guide how I put my sentences together, transitioning from fact to fact.
Topic: TVs Have Gotten More Complicated
Using this topic, all I have to do is put my sentences together in ways that emphasize that growing complexity. Take a look at it now:
The technology of a basic black-and-white TV used a single photodetector to measure and report the image brightness at any given spot in the image. The transition to color TV was done by replacing the single device with a three-color system of red, green, and blue (RGB) pixels. Mixing these monochromes with various intensities was done simply through cold cathode fluorescent lights. Today’s TVs have replaced these with more complicated light-emitting diodes (LED) to backlight the display, or gas pixels, which are used in plasma TVs.
Much better, no? Transitions are the means to travel from the start (TVs were simple) to the end (TVs are complicated).
Topic: Changing from B&W to Color Meant Rethinking TVs
Using this topic, all I have to do is emphasize the massive shift in thinking from B&W to color.
The technology of a basic black-and-white TV used a single photodetector to measure and report the image brightness at any given spot in the image. To create a color image, this idea was scrapped and replaced by a three-color system of red, green, and blue (RGB) pixels that relies on changing the intensity of the three monochromes through cold cathode fluorescent lights. This same RGB idea is still used in TVs today, and improvements have only been made in replacing the fluorescent lights with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to backlight the display or with gas pixels, which are used in plasma TVs.
Intra-Paragraph Transitions Are about Meaning
While transitions between paragraphs are about moving onto the next topic, transitions inside paragraphs are the tools we use to establish a topic in the first place. The former is relatively simple and can be done with a word or two. The latter is more nuanced and requires thoughtfulness. Both are necessary to make your writing flow from here to there.
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