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 by one.
  • She is a fantastic cook, however, she uses too much salt. wrong cross
  • (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. correct tick
  • ("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. correct tick
  • ("Of course" is a conjunctive adverb.)
  • We are only looking for 6 new people. In summary, 70% of you will fail the course. correct tick
  • I was her personal butler for over 10 years. Therefore, I will not tolerate sloppy work. correct tick
  • He missed half of the classes while training for the Olympics. Consequently, his techniques are flawed. correct tick
  • To Bruce's relief, the shark slowly swam off, however, Bruce suspected that the shark had just made its first pass. wrong cross
  • (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. correct tick
  • (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.)
comma before however

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. correct tick
  • I don't like cake; however, I love scones. correct tick
  • I don't like cake, however, I love scones. wrong cross
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 (e.g., dashes).

No Comma before "However"

Remember that you cannot use a comma before a conjunctive adverb like "however." For example:
  • I cannot come on Tuesday, however, Peter will be there. wrong cross
  • (This is a common error – especially with "however." We judge it to be the most common error committed by competent writers. Sorry if we've hammered this point a bit hard. Not sorry.)
Read more about run-on sentences.

A Video Summary on Using Conjunctive Adverbs

Here is a short video on how to use conjunctive adverbs like "however": video lesson

Are you a visual learner? Do you prefer video to text? Here is a list of all our grammar videos.

author logo

This page was written by Craig Shrives.