You can use introductory phrases and words to frame or modify a sentence in your writing. But when do you need a comma after an introductory element? In this post, we offer some punctuation advice and look at when to use a comma after introductory phrases, clauses, and words.\nCommas After Introductory Phrases\nLet\u2019s start in broad terms. By "introductory phrase," we mean any group of words used to frame or modify a sentence that isn\u2019t a complete clause.\n\nThere are no strict rules about when to add a comma after an introductory phrase. However, common guidelines for when to use a comma include:\n\n \tWhen an introductory phrase is more than four words.\n \tIf you want to imply a distinct pause before the main sentence.\n \tTo prevent ambiguity or confusion.\n\nIn the case of longer introductory phrases, the comma helps ensure the sentence reads smoothly. For instance:\nAfter thinking long and hard, Megan decided to confront Beth. \nYou can also include one for shorter phrases, but this is optional:\nBy Tuesday I was ready for the weekend.\nBy Tuesday, I was ready for the weekend. \nIt\u2019s worth checking your style guide if you\u2019re using one, though, as some will specify how many words to use before you should add a comma.\nIntroductory Dependent Clauses\nYou will also need to add a comma after the introduction when a sentence begins with a dependent clause. This is a clause that starts with a subordinate conjunction, like "while" or "before":\nWhile we were playing tennis, our friends had a picnic.\nBefore I started this job, I was a student.\nHowever, you only usually need to use a comma when a dependent clause introduces a sentence. If we flipped the sentences above so the main clauses came first, for instance, we wouldn\u2019t use commas:\nOur friends had a picnic while we were playing tennis.\nI was a student before I started this job.\nSo you only need a comma when the dependent clause comes first!\nIntroductory Words (Sentence Adverbs)\nSentence adverbs are words that modify a full sentence, not just part of it. And if you use a sentence adverb to introduce a sentence, you will need to use a comma after the introductory word.\n\nSome of the most common sentence adverbs are adverbial conjunctions, such as "however," "furthermore," "meanwhile," and "therefore," which let us connect sentences to improve the flow of writing:\nMeanwhile, Tony was in the kitchen washing the dishes.\nHowever, there is no evidence eating oranges improves life expectancy.\nLikewise, we can use an adverb to frame a sentence with an opinion or attitude. In this case, the introductory word tells us how the reader feels about the rest of the sentence. For instance:\nIdeally, we will move into the new house next month.\nThankfully, Thomas wasn\u2019t hurt in the incident.\nHere, "ideally" and "thankfully" tell us the attitude of the author about the thing expressed in the rest of the relevant sentence. If you\u2019re using a word to introduce a sentence like this, always include a comma.\nSummary: Commas After Introductory Elements\nYou can often use a comma to separate an introductory element from the rest of a sentence. Key cases where you\u2019ll want to do this include:\n\n \tAfter longer introductory phrases (e.g., four words or more).\n \tTo imply a pause or prevent confusion.\n \tWhen a sentence starts with a dependent clause.\n \tWhen using a single adverb to frame a whole sentence.\n\nIf you\u2019d like to be sure you\u2019ve used commas correctly, meanwhile, proofreading is the answer! Try our services for free by uploading a 500-word sample document today and find out how we can help.