Commas with Conjunctive Adverbs
Using a Comma after a Conjunctive Adverb like "However"
A conjunctive adverb sits at the start of a sentence to act like a bridge to an idea in the previous sentence. For example:
- She is a fantastic cook. However, she uses too much salt.
(The word "however" prepares us for a contradictory sentence. It acts like a bridge to the previous sentence. Note that a conjunctive adverb is followed by a comma. A conjunctive adverb is not preceded by a comma.)
A conjunctive adverb
at the start of a sentence creates a smooth transition from the previous sentence. (For this reason, conjunctive adverbs are also known as "transitional phrases.") Common conjunctive adverbs are "however," "as a result," and "consequently".
Using a Comma before a Conjunctive Adverb
A conjunctive adverb is followed
by a comma, not preceded
- She is a fantastic cook, however, she uses too much salt.
(This is a common writing error. Most of the time, a conjunctive adverb should be preceded by the period (full stop) that ended the previous sentence.)
Using a Semicolon before a Conjunctive Adverb
It is possible to use a semicolon
before a conjunctive adverb for a smoother transition between your "sentences."
- She is a fantastic cook; however, she uses too much salt.
(The sentences have now become independent clauses. Don't use semicolons like this too often. It gets annoying really quickly.)
Examples of Conjunctive Adverbs and Commas
- 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 conjunctive adverb. 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 conjunctive adverb.)
- We are only looking for 6 new people. In summary, 70% of you will fail the course.
- I was her personal butler for over 10 years. Therefore, I will not tolerate sloppy work.
- He missed half of the classes while training for the Olympics. Consequently, his techniques are flawed.
- To Bruce's relief, the shark slowly swam off, however, Bruce suspected that the shark had just made its first pass.
(Remember that you cannot precede a conjunctive adverb with a comma.)
Also, remember that you can use a semicolon
before your conjunctive adverb for a smoother transition between your "sentences." For example:
- He missed half of the classes while training for the Olympics; consequently, his techniques are flawed.
(This is allowable. "Allowable" does not mean do it every single time! Use semicolons sparingly to maintain their smoothing effect. If you smooth everything, you smooth nothing.)
Don't Use a Comma before "However"
The word "However" is a common conjunctive adverb. It is just like the other conjunctive adverbs, but it deserves a special mention because writers often mistakenly precede it with a comma. For example:
- I don't like cake. However, I love scones.
- I don't like cake; however, I love scones.
- I don't like cake, however, I love scones.
When "However" is being used as a conjunctive adverb, preceding it with a comma is a mistake called a run-on sentence
Don't Overuse Semicolons
Conjunctive adverbs are useful because they keep ideas flowing between sentences. Most of them should be preceded by periods (full stops). If you use semicolons before every conjunctive adverb, you will annoy your readers. Semicolons are great in moderation. Hold them back for when you want a really smooth transition between two sentences.
Read more about using semicolons.
You Will See a Comma before "However"
Like the other conjunctive adverbs, the word "however" can be used like a mid-sentence parenthesis
. For example:
- Toby likes fishing. Trevor, however, is a fanatic.
When used mid-sentence like this, a word like "however" should be offset from the rest of the sentence using commas or other parenthetical punctuation
A Video Summary on Using Conjunctive Adverbs
Here is a short video on how to use conjunctive adverbs like "however":
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