When should a comma be placed after the adverb that starts the sentence?

When should there be a comma when adverbs like well, seemingly, apparently, supposedly, definitely, surely, obviously, conclusively, possibly, indeed, actually, naturally and others start a sentence?

  • Seemingly, she's gone to live with another man.
  • Apparently it's going to rain today.
  • Supposedly, she never spoke to him again.
  • Well, the tickets are supposedly in the mail.
  • Surely you don't expect me to believe that?
  • Obviously the school cannot function without teachers.
  • Indeed, it could be the worst environmental disaster in Europe this century.
  • Actually, Gavin, it was Tuesday of last week, not Wednesday.
  • Naturally we want to see as few job losses in the industry as possible.

As you can see some adverbs are followed by a comma while others are not.

  • 1
    They all could have one, except "surely". The question is thus which ones can or even prefer to drop it. Jul 6, 2017 at 12:32
  • Who requires it? Do you really consider well an adverb there? Isn't it just a kind of discourse marker?
    – TimR
    Jul 6, 2017 at 15:01
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo I thought it was an interjection at first. Jul 6, 2017 at 15:09
  • 2
    You could dispense with commas after all but well and actually. Some editor might insist you put them back. The house always wins.
    – TimR
    Jul 6, 2017 at 16:40
  • 1
    That's because there is no rule "governing" the comma's usage. The concept of "rules" is inimical to many things about English grammar and usage. The quest for "rules" is often misguided. There is no-one to enforce such "rules", if they existed. Jul 7, 2017 at 8:22

1 Answer 1


The majority of the words that you have written in bold are a type of adverbial (a type of adverb) which is called an disjunct. (whether they are all disjuncts could be argued.).

.Disjuncts allow the speaker/writer to influence the hearer or reader.. They represent the speaker's attitude about what he is going to say.

Here are some examples where the adjunct is written in bold:

Naturally, you are going to go you. = the speaker is certain you will go.

Obviously,I agree with the president. = Its obvious that the speaker will agree.

Of course, she is late. = I think it is to be expected.

Regrettably, he didn't attend the meeting.= I think its sad or too bad that he didn't come.

Surely, you are going to go to school today. = a strong sense of persuasion.

Frankly, I couldn't care less about comma rules. = the speaker really doesn't care.

In each case we use a comma to separate the emotion or attitude of the speaker from the rest of the sentence. Some authorities believe that a comma should be used if the disjunct doesn't flow with the rest of the sentence and in most cases disjuncts are separated by a comma.

There are no hard and fast rules about comma use. and convention plays a role in determining some rules. You learn from experience and even English teachers can get it wrong.

Source Grammar 33 manual U of Saskatchewan, Longman's Dictionary, Guide to Grammar Writing by Charles Darling.

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