Semicolon before a transitional phrase

May 6, 2013pdf

A transitional phrase is essentially a word or phrase used to show the relationship between two clauses or paragraphs. Transitional phrases (also called conjunctive adverbs) usually come at the beginning of a sentence and are separated from the rest of the sentence with a comma. Common examples of transitional phrases are: however, therefore, consequently, furthermore, moreover, even as etc.

Read the sentences given below.

  • The train was an hour late. In spite of this, I managed to get to the meeting in time.

Here the phrase ‘in spite of this’ acts as a transitional adverb. As you can see, it does not connect the two clauses. It merely shows how ideas are connected.

We usually use a full stop before a transitional phrase. Sometimes writers use semi-colons instead of full stops. An advantage of using this method is that it makes the transition between the sentences even more seamless.

  • She had little chance of success. Nevertheless, she decided to enter the competition.
  • OR She had little chance of success; nevertheless, she decided to enter the competition.
  • I cannot attend your wedding. However, my blessings are always with you.
  • OR I cannot attend your wedding; however, my blessings are always with you.

Note that you cannot use a comma to separate the two sentences. This is a common punctuation mistake.

  • I want to pass the test. Therefore, I work hard. OR I want to pass the test; therefore, I work hard. (BUT NOT I want to pass the test, therefore, I work hard.)
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