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If I have a sentence that starts with additionally, finally, consequently, etc. do I always have to put a comma after it? Or is there a different rule?

3 Answers 3

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A sentence adverb (or a disjunct or an introductory adverbial element) should be followed by a comma in certain circumstances. You can find all the information you could possibly want here:

grammartips.homestead.com/adverbs2.html

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    Excellent link, for which I'll upvote the answer. But ideally you'd have done the spadework to point out that all of OP's introductory adverbial elements are in fact conjunctive adverbs. Which, as your link points out, are optional - with the modern tendency being to omit them. I like the metaphor of optional commas creating superfluous pauses that are as welcome as speed bumps! Apr 18, 2011 at 12:19
  • @FumbleFingers: They might prevent accidents... Apr 18, 2011 at 16:04
  • @Cerberus: Exactly! Reader is accidentally reading too fast, not paying attention, and so misses the significant of crucial clause which should have been preceded by pregnant pause. It's so much easier being a movie director than a writer - you've got total control of the pace. Apr 18, 2011 at 22:42
  • Excellent online resource. Jul 7, 2016 at 3:41
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Actually, it's just a matter of personal preference. Do you want your reader to mentally pause after the first word or not?

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    Note the comma after "actually"!
    – msanford
    Apr 18, 2011 at 23:42
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    I did actually think it might lend a touch of 'gravitas' to the answer following, to be preceded by such a portentious pause. Contrasting with the somewhat more informal if not flippant tone of the expansionary second sentence :-) Apr 18, 2011 at 23:50
  • I don't understand why it would be a matter of preference. Which sounds right? "Honestly I like the new Microsoft ads." "Actually, they are not gramatical."
    – benc
    Jan 10, 2014 at 7:16
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    @benc: In certain specific contexts, it may well be that the vast majority of writers either would or wouldn't include a comma in some particular sentence. But consider this example from the link in JIP's answer: Often, the introductory adverb modifies just the verb, as does the word "often"in this sentence. That first comma can obviously either be present or not - it's a matter of the effect the writer is aiming for. Also [,] don't forget that the modern tendency is to use less commas. Jan 10, 2014 at 13:25
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If starting a sentence with an introductory word or phrase then, yes, a comma would be required.

If you need money ask grandma for a loan. Alternatively, rob a bank.

You would not need a comma if the word is used as an adverb in mid-sentence:

I finally had my refrigerator repaired.

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  • Thanks. But what if I use it like this: Finally[,] I had my refrigerator repaired. Apr 17, 2011 at 22:56
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    Whilst I'm sure most people would put a comma after Alternatively there, many people - myself included - might well not bother if you substituted Or instead. It's not a matter of absolute rules. Or if there is a rule, it's probably Omit commas wherever this doesn't compromise legibility. Apr 17, 2011 at 22:59
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    @FumbleFingers: I would say that the formal rule is to always use a comma before an introductory word or phrase. In short, when the sentence doesn't begin with the subject. When writing informally I suppose you could omit the comma to dictate a certain pace to the reader: "Or take the bus". Apr 17, 2011 at 23:24
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    @Roflcoptr: In thinking about your example "Finally I had my refrigerator repaired", this may be an example of word inversion rather than use of an introductory word. I suspect that the former wouldn't require a comma, as you are using 'finally' to mean 'at long last' rather than 'lastly'. Apr 17, 2011 at 23:51
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    @Snubian: My point is precisely that I don't accept the validity of any formal rule in this context, obviously. But let's not get into a pissing contest. If there were to be a formal rule, yours would do well enough. Apr 18, 2011 at 1:45

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