The Word “Then”

When “then” means “at that time,” it does not take a comma as it is an adverb.

…He was then on his way to becoming successful.
…I saw them and then began to wonder what would happen.

If “then” is at the beginning of a sentence, it starts a new sentence and needs a semicolon or a period in front of it. If “and” is in front of it, the “and” is irrelevant and does not affect the punctuation.

…He walked into the house; then he began to shake.
…He walked into the house, and then he began to shake.
…And then I noticed the bug.

When “then” doesn’t have any meaning but is just a “throwaway” type word, it takes commas around it.

…Well, then, are you intending to leave that here?
…Are you saying, then, that you need this here?

Happy punctuating!


“My Question Is…”

This construction always causes consternation and no end of disagreement. This is my understanding of the way English grammar works.

It is never correct to use a single separating comma between the verb and the predicate nominative. Surely no one wants a comma in the following examples.

…My name is Margie.
…Her response is that she was not home.
…My question was how long he was there.

When the predicate nominative is asking a question, (which is not particularly good grammar), I do not know of a separate rule that allows a comma to separate that question from the main part of the sentence. I would like the use of a comma between the verb and the predicate nominative explained from a grammar standpoint. How is it okay to put one separating comma in the middle of that sentence, which we do not do in the previous examples? How does the question there change the rule?

…My question is where did you go?
…My question is were you all there?

There is a rule that says that, when there are two parts to a sentence, one that is making a statement and one that is asking a question, it is the part at the end that determines the terminal punctuation.

…My question is when did he arrive?
…When did he arrive? is my question.

Happy punctuating!


Punctuate What Is Really There…

I have been on “hiatus” for a while. Actually I have been swamped for a while!! So I am back — still swamped but back.

There is a question on FB about the word “but” and whether it should have a comma before it when it ends the sentence. Remember that we punctuate what is really there. This sentence just does not work with the comma because you do not know what is coming.

…I have always come to his rescue, but — 🙁

…I have always come to his rescue but not today.
…I have always come to his rescue, but this is just not reasonable.

(And these examples are putting aside the issue of whether he was interrupted or trailed off.)

Happy punctuating!