I have always wondered if using "of course" in a sentence requires comma usage, because we tend to pause when using "of course" in language. The first sentence is from what I am writing now. Is it correct? I also gave some other variations, just to receive feedback on which may be an incorrect usage of commas with "of course."

"Of course, considering the matter in hindsight, those thoughts of mine were ridiculous."

"Considering the matter in hindsight, those thoughts of mine were, of course, ridiculous."

"Considering the matter in hindsight, those thoughts of mine were of course ridiculous."

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    I was taught that any insertion into a sentence, like this one, should be surrounded by commas. So I would, of course, surround 'of course' with commas. – BoldBen Sep 15 '16 at 18:27
  • ... Times have changed. Minor interruptions (your third example) aren't considered to require commas around the parenthetical where clarity isn't compromised; use them if you want to emphasise the parenthetical. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 20 '18 at 23:53

When you use the phrase 'of course' you have to use a comma. It doesn't matter whether it is in the middle or at the beginning of a sentence. I'm completely sure that the first two sentences are right, but the last one seems wrong to me.

  • Except at the end of a sentence: Of course, you have to use a comma after of course. – David Handelman Sep 15 '16 at 22:54
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    There has been a thread explaining (with supporting evidence, rather than being an unsupported claim) that zero punctuation around parentheticals is a valid option where (a) they are short, (b) no loss of clarity ensues, (c) pauses are not stylistically virtually demanded and (d) pauses are not preferred. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 20 '18 at 23:56
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    It worries me that an answer which is a mixture of what is clearly opinion, and an assertion that has been shown to be over-prescriptive in an earlier thread, should be accepted. Answers need to be supported by authoritative references. These Google hits show a clear mix of commaed and comma-less examples. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 23 '18 at 10:19
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    EnglishForums give an obviously correct counter-example, in line with Pasolainen's answer below. University of Illinois_Center for Writing Studies gives the advice: ' Any mildly parenthetical element is enclosed in commas if it seems desirable to set it apart from the rest of the sentence. A writer is called upon to use his own judgment in applying this rule ...'. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 23 '18 at 10:31
  • Edwin Ashworth, any chance you could link that thread you mentioned in your first reply (with the 4 dotpoints)? Trying to find clearer/more official sources addressing this issue. – MajorOverload1 Dec 31 '20 at 12:11

Using 'of course' without commas can imply a refutation of prior skepticism. In these cases, the speaker emphasizes 'course.'

Compare these two separate situations:

  1. Frazzled mother: "Are you going to remember your lunch?" Indignant child: "Of course I am going to remember my lunch!"

  2. Calm child to happy mother: "I'm off to school! Of course, I am going to remember my lunch!"

In the first case, the child would emphasize 'course' and not pause anywhere.

So, then, presume someone asked "Weren't your thoughts on that rather goofy?" It could be perfectly correct to answer "Considering the matter in hindsight, those thoughts of mine were of course ridiculous." Here, 'course' is emphasized in speech, which leads to no pauses, and hence, no commas.

If you don't want to imply prior skepticism, you should probably be using a comma.

An example and explanation of this is given at https://www.dailywritingtips.com/how-to-punctuate-introductory-phrases/, which explains comma usage for introductory phrases. This particular quote uses 'of course' as an example of the Emphasis class of adverbial conjunctions, which should generally be followed by a comma:

(An exception can be made for this particular phrase: There’s a subtle but distinct difference between “Of course, you’ll want to do it your way” and “Of course you’ll want to do it your way.” In the first sentence, your is stressed; in the second, course, perhaps accompanied by a sneer, is emphasized, with a secondary stress on your — and likely an exclamation point to signal emotion.)

  • Hello, pasolainen. Welcome to ELU. This is a very apposite point to make. I normally moan about lack of authoritative references when there are none with answers, but I wouldn't know where to look myself in this case. Perhaps you can add a reasonable example off the internet, though. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 21 '18 at 0:00
  • of course in speech is not of course in writing. – Lambie Sep 26 '19 at 19:53

I wouldn't use comma if I wouldn't pause there. E.g.

  • Of course not.
  • Of course I'm happy.

Update: You're the one saying it. So, go by the way you say it. Write in the way you want to be heard.

  • I agree, Kumara, but how do people who are not well versed in usage choose between your unsupported recommendation and the conflicting one Harmless Psycho gives above? – Edwin Ashworth Feb 23 '18 at 10:34
  • Wouldn't wouldn't? – Lambie Sep 26 '19 at 19:56
  • @EdwinAshworth , OK, let me add something. – Kumāra Bhikkhu Jun 9 '20 at 7:03

Call me crazy, but I think that there is too much "loosy-goosey" and "do it your way" creeping in to English print usage. Since the 1980's, newspapers have led the march on providing really terrible examples of English in print. Fortunately, I find that book editors have held the line. Doesn't there need to be a compendium of Standard English Usage to define what is and is not acceptable in the written word? I was taught that whenever "of course" is used in a sentence it needs to be followed by a comma.

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    Of course that's not necessary, at least in a sentence like this one. Please note that Stack Exchange is not a discussion forum. You are welcome to post a corroborated answer which is not polemical. – Andrew Leach Jan 4 at 17:21
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    The trouble with the 'there's too much looseness, too many non-standard usages creeping in' stance is that it is quite willing to accept any such changes that took place before a person was taught that particular approach. What about people taught differently, either then or before or afterwards? English is a living language and usage-driven, not prescriptivist. "It is I" would get people strange looks nowadays. We have to be more flexible. I'm an ex-teacher, and I'd demand no comma in Pasolainen's first example. Adding one gives the wrong reading. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 4 at 17:26

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