Semicolons before transitional phrases
The Quick AnswerA transitional phrase (e.g., however, as a result, consequently) will usually start a new sentence. However, if you would like a smoother transition between the first sentence and the one starting with the transitional phrase, you can use a semicolon before the transitional phrase. You cannot use a comma.
Semicolon before a Transitional PhraseThis point is closely related to the lesson Extending a Sentence with a Semicolon as it concerns merging two sentences to form one. However, in these examples, there is a short bridge between the first half and the second half of the sentence. The bridge is known as a transitional phrase. There is always a comma after a transitional phrase but not before.
A transitional phrase will usually start a new sentence, but if you would like a smoother transition than that afforded by a full stop / period, you can use a semicolon before a transitional phrase to merge the new sentence with the previous one.
Examples (transitional phrases shown in bold):
- Everyone knows he is guilty; of course, it will never be proved. (The transitional phrase of course acts like a bridge between the first half and the second half.)
- Sarah's guest was turned away by the doorman; as a result, she left before the presentations. (as a result – transitional phrase)
- Business is booming; for example, Siemens has made 10 orders since 4 o'clock. (for example – transitional phrase)
- I missed the early plane; however, I still made the meeting. (however – transitional phrase)
- The paper is stuck in the lift; consequently, we cannot finish the printing. (consequently – transitional phrase)
- She does not loathe chess, on the contrary, she quite likes it. (The term on the contrary is a transitional phrase. You cannot merge two sentences into one with a comma. You must either start a new sentence or use a semicolon.)
- My security guards are not trained in fire-fighting; therefore, we paged the fire service.
Start a New Sentence Nine Times out of TenTransitional phrases are common. Most of the time, a transitional phrase will start a new sentence. However, you can use a semicolon if you wish a smoother transition. You should not do this too often.
Definitely Not a CommaYou cannot merge two sentences with a comma. This is a very common mistake.
- It is extremely foggy, nevertheless, the game will be played.
Main Culprit is HoweverThe error described above is called a comma fault or run-on error. This error is most commonly seen with the word however.
- I am leaving now, however, I will be back on Wednesday to collect my wages.
- I am leaving now; however, I will be back on Wednesday to collect my wages.
- I am leaving now. However, I will be back on Wednesday to collect my wages.
Commas after SoWhen the word so is used to mean therefore, it is a transitional phrase and should be followed by a comma.
- We are not in a position to fund the changes. So, the current system will remain until at least April when it will be reviewed again.