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A Proofreader’s Guide to Conjunctive Adverbs

Conjunctive adverbs are a useful way of linking sentences and clauses in writing. However, the rules for punctuating conjunctive adverbs can be confusing. As a proofreader, then, you may need to look for issues with these terms. In this post, we’ll explain what you need to know.

Linking Sentences with a Conjunctive Adverb

Conjunctive adverbs can be used to link full clauses within a sentence, like coordinating conjunctions. But the punctuation required here is slightly different:

  • Rather than a comma before a coordinating conjunction, clauses linked with a conjunctive adverb should be separated with a semicolon.
  • The adverb is then followed by a comma before the main clause.

If your client uses a comma rather than a semicolon at the end of the first clause – or misses the comma after the conjunctive adverb – you will need to make a correction:

I really like the band’s music, however, I don’t like their lyrics.

I really like the band’s music; however I don’t like their lyrics.

I really like the band’s music; however, I don’t like their lyrics.

These are the most common errors made with conjunctive adverbs.

Commas and Conjunctive Adverbs

Conjunctive adverbs can also be used to show the relationship between separate sentences. This often involves giving the adverb first, followed by a comma and the main clause:

I really like the band’s music. However, I don’t like their lyrics.

Alternatively, conjunctive adverbs may be preceded by a comma at the end of a sentence:

I really like the band’s music. I don’t like their lyrics, however.

If the comma is missing in either of these cases, you will need to correct it.

This can vary when a conjunctive adverb is used mid-sentence. If the adverb in question is only there to show how two sentences are related, it is usually set apart with commas:

I really like the band’s music. I don’t, however, like their lyrics.

But if a conjunctive adverb is essential to the meaning of a sentence, the commas are sometimes omitted. This is common with words like “thus” and “therefore,” for instance:

Running a business is expensive. All managers thus need to budget carefully.

Here, the “thus” is fine by itself because it is essential to the meaning of the second clause. Deciding whether to use commas in cases like this is therefore a matter of judgement.

List of Conjunctive Adverbs

Common examples of terms and phrases that you’ll see used as conjunctive adverbs include:

Accordingly

Finally

Indeed

Nonetheless

Additionally

Furthermore

Likewise

Otherwise

Also

Hence

Meanwhile

Similarly

As a result

However

Moreover

Subsequently

Consequently

In contrast

Namely

Therefore

Conversely

Incidentally

Nevertheless

Thus

If you see these terms used, make sure to check the punctuation!

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