Using a Comma after However (i.e., a Transitional Phrase)
The Quick AnswerWhen a term like However, As a result, or Consequently starts a sentence, it should be followed by a comma. (These terms are called transitional phrases or conjunctive adverbs.)
A transitional phrase sits at the start of a sentence and acts like a bridge to an idea in the previous sentence. Common ones are However, Consequently, Therefore, and As a result.
A transitional phrase is followed by a comma. A transitional phrase is never preceded by a comma.
Using a Comma after a Transitional Phrase (e.g., However )It is common for a sentence to start with an introduction that acts like a bridge to the previous sentence. The introduction makes the transition between the two sentences smoother. (It is known as a transitional phrase or a conjunctive adverb.)
A transitional phrase always appears at the start of a sentence and is followed by a comma. For example:
- Bruce Leonard spent 4 years in Japan studying Kung Fu. As a result, he is often able to predict moves by Japanese opponents. (As a result is a transitional phrase. It acts like a bridge between the previous sentence and the new one. It is followed by a comma.)
- Mark was separated from his twin sister when they were both one. Of course, it was often said that the girl next door looked a little like him, but no one had any reason to think they might be related. (Of course is a transitional phrase.)
- In summary, 70% of you will fail the course.
- Consequently, I cannot tolerate sloppy work.
- Consequently, his teaching techniques are flawed.
- However, Bruce was unaware that the shark was only making its first pass.
Beware Using a Comma before HoweverThe word However is a very common transitional phrase. It is just like the other transitional phrases, but it deserves a special mention because writers often mistakenly precede it with a comma (as opposed to using it to start a sentence).
- I don't like cake. However, I love scones.
- I don't like cake, however, I love scones.
On occasion, it might be appropriate to precede however with a semicolon. For example:
- I don't like cake; however, I love scones.
You Can Use SemicolonsOn occasion, you may wish to use a semicolon before a transitional phrase to make the transition between sentences even more seamless. For example:
- I cannot come on Tuesday. However, Peter will be there.
- I cannot come on Tuesday; however, Peter will be there.
Don't Overuse SemicolonsTransitional phrases are useful because they keep ideas flowing between sentences. Most of them should be preceded by full stops / ( periods.
If you use semicolons before all your transitional phrases, you will annoy your readers. Semicolons are great in moderation. Hold them back for when you want a really smooth transition between two sentences.
You Will See a Comma before HoweverLike the other transitional phrases, the word however can be used as a parenthesis. For example:
- Trevor, however, drinks like a fish.
Not a CommaYou cannot use a comma before a transitional phrase. For example:
- I cannot come on Tuesday, however, Peter will be there.
Read more about the error known as a run-on sentence.