Commas with Transition Words

Have you ever wondered how to use a comma with however (or if you even should)? Here's the scoop on using commas and semicolons with however, therefore, and other conjunctive adverbs and transition words.

Mignon Fogarty
4-minute read
Episode #574

Semicolons with Transition Words

The same rules apply to transition words and phrases such as for example, in other words, and on the other hand,

If you’re joining two main clauses, you use a semicolon and comma just like you did before, but if the part after the transition isn’t a main clause, then you use two commas.

First think about this example:

I might be able to get it back in time; for example, I could ask Steve to bring it by before work.

I might be able to get it back in time is a main clause, and so is I could ask Steve to bring it by before work, so I snuggle for example between a semicolon and a comma.

Commas with Transition Words

Now think about this example:

I could ask Steve to bring it by, for example, before work or during his lunch hour.

Now the part after for example is just a couple of prepositional phrases, not a main clause, so you don’t need a semicolon. You just use two commas--one before for example and one after. 

It all depends on whether the part that comes after the transition is a main clause or not, and it’s easy to get distracted, but just remember with a main clause after your transition word, you need a semicolon before and a comma after, and without a main clause, you can get away with two commas.


Here are some practice sentence. Fill in the right punctuation:

  1. You need to help with the housework furthermore I need a vacation.
  2. Bring Squiggly something he’ll like for example he likes chocolate mousse and cheesecake.
  3. This test will make up 50 percent of your grade therefore it’s important that you study.
  4. We will therefore double our practice schedule.
  5. You need to clean your room before you go to the movies therefore get cracking!
  6. Jimmy threw a rock at the beehive consequently all the kids got stung.
  7. Aardvark is however the best fisherman on the bass circuit.
  8. Mandy practices piano all day similarly you can’t tear Brandon away from his violin.
  9. I cooked Sammy’s favorite dinner nevertheless he wouldn’t come out of his room.
  10. Not enough players showed up in other words they had to forfeit the game.

Answers are on the next page.

A list of conjunctive adverbs.


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.