Posted by: Jack Henry | December 27, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Commas with Introductory Phrases

I wrote recently about the comma rule for conjunctions. No one sent me hate mail. In fact, a few of you thanked me for the refresher. So, I’m taking that as permission to share another comma rule with you today: commas with introductory (also called transitional) words and phrases. It’s your own fault!

These commas signal where the introductory element ends and the main part of the sentence (the independent clause) begins.

Following are some examples of sentences that being with an introductory word or phrase:

  • In fact, a few of you thanked me for the refresher.
  • Meanwhile, the children were running, jumping, and doing cartwheels in the school cafeteria.
  • Therefore, your hands are tied, and you’ll need to speak with your attorney.
  • On the other hand, her quiet nature might make her an ideal roommate.
  • To put it another way, half-eaten pizzas are nonrefundable.
  • Without a doubt, you are the happiest undertaker I’ve ever met.
  • When the long meeting ended, the staff exited the room like bats out of hell.
  • While packing for her trip, Judy realized she forgot to book a flight for her husband.

Notice that in all the examples, the clause that comes after the introduction and the comma is an independent clause, meaning it is a complete sentence that can stand on its own. The introductory phrase, on the other hand, does not make sense alone; it only introduces the independent clause or serves as a transition between sentences.

To put it another way, if you begin your sentence with a dependent clause followed by an independent clause, you need a comma between the two. Easy, right? You’ve got this!

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Extension: 765432

Symitar Documentation Services

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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  1. […] A subordinate clause that begins a sentence is set off with a comma. [dbb – I wrote a post on this topic; it’s called Commas with Introductory Phrases.] […]

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