5 Rules About Conjunctive Adverbs

By Mark Nichol

Many words and phrases are similar in function to the conjunction and, but they’re not exact replacements; they even belong in a different grammatical class — adverbs. But because of this similarity, they’re called conjunctive adverbs or adverbial conjunctions. When considering using any of the special adverbs discussed below — the simplest and most common among this subclass — with or in place of and, keep these rules in mind:

1. “As Well As” Stands Alone

The phrase “as well as” serves to distance a phrase from a preceding item or list of items:

Bioethics addresses issues of medical administration, medical economics, industrial medicine, epidemiology, legal medicine, treatment of animals, as well as environmental issues.

Because “as well as environmental issues” is a separate phrase, the preceding list requires its own conjunction before the final item: “Bioethics addresses issues of medical administration, medical economics, industrial medicine, epidemiology, legal medicine, and treatment of animals, as well as environmental issues.”

2. Clauses Share Conjunctive Adverbs

The presence of a conjunction in a subordinate clause obviates the need for another one in the main clause:

In addition to managing the application server and the database, the company also tackles Web applications.

When you begin a sentence with a connector, do not introduce another later in the sentence: “In addition to managing the application server and the database, the company tackles Web applications.”

3. Conjunctions and Conjunctive Adverbs Clash

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, in a sample sentence demonstrating the definition of also, allows the combination “and also,” as shown in this construction:

I did check-in procedures when they were first arrested and also checked them for weapons and such before they went into their rooms.

However, I see no point in retaining also and recommend its deletion: “I did check-in procedures with them when they were first arrested and checked them for weapons and such before they went into their rooms.”

4. Let Etc. Carry Its Own Load

A similar redundancy can occurs with etc.; fortunately, few people commit this error in their writing, but in searching for examples online, I found many company names following the “Widgets and Etc.” model. Etc., an abbreviation of the Latin et cetera (hence the pronunciation), means “and so on,” and so forth,” “and the like,” so preceding it with and is redundant.

By the way, style guides recommend using one of the English forms in favor of the Latin abbreviation. If you’re going to ignore this sensible advice, at least punctuate the sentence correctly by preceding the abbreviation with a comma: “Symptoms of alcohol abuse are identical to those of heart failure due to viral infection, high blood pressure, etc.” If etc. occurs mid-sentence, punctuate after it as well: “Symptoms of alcohol abuse are identical to those of heart failure due to viral infection, high blood pressure, etc., so it is easily misdiagnosed or missed.”

5. Take Care in Placing Too

Too can be situated in various places in a sentence, depending on the sentence’s intended meaning:

Too, I think mediation should be considered.

However, it should not start a sentence: “I think, too, mediation should be considered first,” in which the placement of too clearly indicates that the writer is expressing an additional thought, is the correct syntactical arrangement. “I think mediation should be considered, too,” while also correct, is ambiguous: It could mean the same thing, or it could signal agreement with another person’s opinion. “I, too, think mediation should be considered first” unequivocally communicates the latter meaning.

But don’t let the injunction against the adverbial conjunction too at the head of a sentence deter you from beginning one with the pure adverb too: “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”

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7 Responses to “5 Rules About Conjunctive Adverbs”

  • Cathy

    I have posted on my bulletin board (don’t know where I got it) that etc. stands for “end of thinking creatively.”

  • Michael King

    Excellent site! I’m sure someone else will pick your nit for this. But “obviate” means “to eliminate the need for” or “make unnecessary. “Obviate the need for” is a pleonasm, not to mention a tautology. Thus ends my catechism.

    Cheers.

  • shirley in berkeley

    About #4. Wish to carp about people who say ECK cetera. (Why do they do that! Grrrr! It’s et cetera!!)

    This pronunciation falls in the same category as “diptheria,” “ampatheater” and “estettic” — ugh!!

  • Precise Edit

    My “layman’s” definition of conjunctive adverb is “An adverb that connects (i.e., joins) two clauses and shows how the meaning of the second clause relates to, or depends on, the meaning of the first clause.”

    Conjunctive adverbs are separated from the rest of the sentence with commas, as in your first point.

    Samples of conjunctive adverbs include “therefore,” “additionally,” “however,” and “as such.” From the article “Comma with Too” (http://preciseedit.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/comma-with-too/), we have the following examples.

    “The senator was ashamed. However, he remained in office.”
    “The principal expelled the student. He fired the teacher, as well.”
    “I, too, will go to the service.”

    Cathy: That’s a neat definition for “etc.”
    Shirley: The people who say “ECK cetera” probably write “ect.”

  • Datamaiden

    I enjoyed the article and I love the website. I think one must possess great courage to speak of grammatical issues amongst a horde of nit-picky prima donnas of grammar (I am one of these). I do not wish to nit-pick, but perhaps one would be so kind as to politely justify the use of conjunctions to begin sentences. I see this in the article, in comments, and examples. It simply drives me crazy!

  • Shelley

    I was taught NEVER to use “etc.” Essentially this means “and there are other things too, but I can’t remember them or I don’t even know what they are.” It is basically lazy and sloppy writing.

    When used with the phrase “for example” or “e.g.,” it is unnecessary. An example is just that, one or more samples to illustrate a point. It is not necessary to indicate that other samples might exist.

  • Shelley

    Shirley,

    People insert “ECK” in pronouncing “et cetera” for two reasons: 1) they do not understand that in Latin “et” means “and” and 2) they attended the George Bush Nucular School of Mispronunciation.

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