Nevertheless, you had one job; how and when to use conjunctive adverbs

By Curtis Honeycutt

Who doesn’t like a good meme? Usually, by the time I learn about one, the internet has moved on to the next 522 memes of the week. Right now, my favorite one has to be “you had one job,” in which people share photos of the result of an obvious blunder made by someone whose job it was to get it right, but, alas, that person found a way to mess it up. It would be as if my job was to write about grammar, but instead, I chose to write about internet memes for an entire article.

Conjunctive adverbs have one job: they connect words, phrases and clauses to provide clarification for what the writer or speaker is saying. If someone told you that you had a bad case of conjunctive adverbs, you’d probably go to the doctor to get it checked; however, that’s not their purpose at all.

I just illustrated my point. In the last sentence of the previous paragraph, the word “however” is a conjunctive adverb. Other examples include “moreover,” “hence,” “consequently,” “likewise,” “therefore” and “nonetheless.” Whenever a conjunctive adverb connects two complete ideas, the modifier requires a semicolon before it.

Here’s another telltale sign of a conjunctive adverb: commas. Indeed, conjunctive adverbs pair well with punchy punctuation. Conjunctive adverbs introduce, interrupt, or conclude a main clause. Accordingly, here are some examples: “I should have been sleeping. Instead, our 2-year-old was kicking my back in our bed all night.” Here’s a real-life example from Senator Mitch McConnell: “Senator Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Finally, if a conjunctive adverb injects a rather weak break or interruption, don’t add a comma: “Byron couldn’t find any nacho cheese at the store. He will therefore eat dry tortilla chips tonight.” “My 2-year-old kicked me in the back until I scooted to the edge of the bed. She’s a notoriously nocturnal bully indeed.” If your interruption is mild, don’t go wild by adding commas.

I like conjunctive adverbs. They connect ideas to allow us to clarify our point of view. Because of this, consequently, I recommend you recognize conjunctive adverbs and appreciate them the next time you see or hear one out in the real world.

—Curtis Honeycutt is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist. Connect with him on Twitter (@curtishoneycutt) or at curtishoneycutt.com.