Tricky Transitions: Dr. Costello’s Writing Hacks

by Josh Templin

If you’ve ever watched a news broadcast, you’ll notice there’s an art to truly mastering the segue; that is, the transition from one idea to another.

Dr. C.L. Costello is hoping to teach students how to nail down those transitions with his third Writing Hacks workshop. The presentation will be held in the Wiring Studio (Berks 209) on November 29th at 10:30 a.m. Students who attend will be entered in a drawing to win a $25 coffee card.

Good transitions may seem simple enough, but they often elude even the best writers.

“One of the hard parts of writing is connecting ideas,” Costello said. “One easy way to do this is by gesturing to [an earlier] idea.”

By connecting to earlier ideas in new ways, writers develop cohesive transitions from one thought to the next. Oftentimes, a word as simple as “such” can be magic; for Costello, such a small transitional word can do more heavy lifting than one might think.

Similarly, a simple paragraph break can provide a lot of help.

John Fidler, a RACC faculty member and editor for the Reading Eagle, discussed using white space to your advantage: “I’m a big fan of the spaces between paragraphs. [Spaces say] ‘Yes, dear reader, this is not a clean transition.  It’s a pause…  I’m switching gears.  Stay with me.’”

When teaching students how to write transitions, Costello will focus on the linguistic idea of “deixis,” or words that can’t be understood without some kind of explanation or referent (e.g. pronouns like “him” or “that”.) It’s a common mistake among writers to use these kinds of pronouns and assume that the reader will figure them out.

Costello says that a good writer leads readers where they should be: “If writers see their mind as a position and they need to put readers in their position, these deictic transitions help.”

If you can’t seem to put readers into your mind frame or to get them to understand how all your ideas coalesce, Costello’s third Writing Hacks presentation may help you make some connections.