Some examples.

However is always followed by a comma. Examples.

Mostly is almost always followed by a comma. Examples.

Rather is 50-50, I think. Examples. (I think this is the case with so too.)

Mainly is more often written without comma. Examples.

So my question is, how to tell which introductory words always require a comma and which don't? Also, do they belong to different categories?

I refer to these type of examples:

"Mostly the population is concentrated in the Zhovtnevy and the Prymorsky Raions."

They decided not to put a comma there ... but I think you could put a comma there also.

  • useful: businessinsider.in/…
    – Maulik V
    Sep 19 '19 at 8:46
  • @MaulikV Thanks. Sadly, I think the article can't answer my question. Mainly because they don't mention why you can leave the comma out in some cases.
    – alexchenco
    Sep 19 '19 at 8:57
  • @alexchenco The answer is that the use of a comma is largely (although not entirely) a matter of personal preference. The placing of a comma helps the reader to understand the writer's intentions and the nuances of the script. One person may prefer to use a comma where another doesn't. Sep 19 '19 at 9:20
  • I am downvoting because you are making us go to the corpus and examine the examples ourselves. Moreover, you are comparing apples and oranges. In many of those sentences, the introductory word is part of a larger phrase. There is a big (and obvious) difference between Rather than expanding, the middle class has been squeezed for the last 20 years and Rather, the owner of the car, who might not be driving, ends up with the ticket.. It's got nothing to do with the word and everything to do with the structure of the sentence.
    – J.R.
    Sep 19 '19 at 9:22

From my point of view, the way we write should convey as close as possible what we speak. So even if there are no clear rules sometimes, or even in spite of some rules that hinder the use of language, I have some small rules (of my own) to decide how to write.

In the context of your question, I use the rule: does the sentence have (more or less) the same meaning if I remove the word? If yes, then I will (most likely) use a comma.


However, I decided to continue walking.


I decided to continue walking.

Even though there is a subtle difference in meaning, the main message is still there: I continued walking.

Also compare:

However small the basket was, it seemed to never get full.


Small the basket was, it seemed to never get full.

In this case the resulting sentence does not really make any sense, so a comma must not be used.

You must be careful when analyzing. As mentioned by @J.R. in a comment, these words are not always introductory, but part of the sentences, phrases, idioms. In those cases, other rules may (and usually) apply.

  • There's a result that reads like this: "Mostly the population is concentrated in the Zhovtnevy and the Prymorsky Raions." I think this reads okay without the mostly, I think? (But your advice is a very good one.)
    – alexchenco
    Sep 19 '19 at 10:14
  • 1
    Well, in that example, "mostly" is not really introductory, but defines "is concentrated" - concentrated not totally, but in the biggest part.
    – virolino
    Sep 19 '19 at 14:57
  • 2
    @alexchenco - That sentence could be reworded as: The population is mostly concentrated in the Zhovtnevy and the Prymorsky Raions.
    – J.R.
    Sep 20 '19 at 4:23

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