Comma after an adverb that starts a sentence

When should a comma be placed after the adverb that starts the sentence?

When should there be a comma when adverbs like well, seemingly, apparently, supposedly, definitely, surely, obviously, conclusively, possibly, indeed, actually, naturally and others start a sentence?

  • Seemingly, she’s gone to live with another man.
  • Apparently it’s going to rain today.
  • Supposedly, she never spoke to him again.
  • Well, the tickets are supposedly in the mail.
  • Surely you don’t expect me to believe that?
  • Obviously the school cannot function without teachers.
  • Indeed, it could be the worst environmental disaster in Europe this century.
  • Actually, Gavin, it was Tuesday of last week, not Wednesday.
  • Naturally we want to see as few job losses in the industry as possible.

As you can see some adverbs are followed by a comma while others are not.

Answer

The majority of the words that you have written in bold are a type of adverbial (a type of adverb) which is called an disjunct. (whether they are all disjuncts could be argued.).

.Disjuncts allow the speaker/writer to influence the hearer or reader.. They represent the speaker’s attitude about what he is going to say.

Here are some examples where the adjunct is written in bold:

Naturally, you are going to go you. = the speaker is certain you will go.

Obviously,I agree with the president. = Its obvious that the speaker will agree.

Of course, she is late. = I think it is to be expected.

Regrettably, he didn’t attend the meeting.= I think its sad or too bad that he didn’t come.

Surely, you are going to go to school today. = a strong sense of persuasion.

Frankly, I couldn’t care less about comma rules. = the speaker really doesn’t care.

In each case we use a comma to separate the emotion or attitude of the speaker from the rest of the sentence. Some authorities believe that a comma should be used if the disjunct doesn’t flow with the rest of the sentence and in most cases disjuncts are separated by a comma.

There are no hard and fast rules about comma use. and convention plays a role in determining some rules. You learn from experience and even English teachers can get it wrong.

Source Grammar 33 manual U of Saskatchewan, Longman’s Dictionary, Guide to Grammar Writing by Charles Darling.

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