Posted by: Jack Henry | August 3, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Conjunctive Adverbs: What Are They Good For?

I guess we should start with a definition—because seriously, how many people can explain what a conjunctive adverb is? In all the world, I think maybe twelve.

· conjunctive: serving to join; connective

· adverb: a word or phrase that modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word group, expressing a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, degree, etc. (e.g., gently, quite, then, there)

Conjunctive adverbs join two clauses—so do coordinators (like and, but, so, etc.), but conjunctive adverbs are considered more formal and are used much more often in professional writing than they are in everyday speech. They are different from coordinators because conjunctive adverbs can move around in the sentence. Snazzy, right? Now, I’ve got your attention!

In the following sentences, the conjunctive adverbs are italicized.

· I am happy; therefore, I will sing and dance for you.

· I am a fairly good singer; however, I dance like a wounded giraffe.

Watch how deftly I can move the conjunctive adverbs:

· I am happy; I will, therefore, sing and dance for you.

· I am a fairly good singer; I dance like a wounded giraffe, however.

You can’t do that with coordinators like and, but, and so. Try moving so and but in the following sentences (while retaining the same meaning).

· I am happy, so I will sing and dance for you.

· I am a fairly good singer, but I dance like a wounded giraffe.

Coordinators are stubborn; they can’t be moved.

Why should you care? Because conjunctive adverbs have many uses that can improve the clarity of your writing; they show how two clauses are connected.

· They can add to previous information (furthermore, in addition, moreover).

· The can contrast (notwithstanding, nonetheless, nevertheless, in contrast).

· They can illustrate (for example, for instance).

· They can summarize (in short, in sum).

· They can show sequence in time or logic (consequently, therefore, thus).

· They can emphasize (certainly, indeed).

You don’t have to remember what they’re called; however, you may occasionally find conjunctive adverbs useful in your professional writing. Furthermore, you can use them in speech (when you’re at the grocery store, the gym, or the local brewery) to impress the locals. You should certainly use them sparingly so as not to sound too pretentious. In sum, conjunctive adverbs may have a confusing name, but they’re easy enough to use. Indeed, they are.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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