The Word “Then”

The word then is an adverb when it means “next” or “at that time.” When it is an adverb, it does not take punctuation.

…We were then seen by a different doctor.
…I then noticed the spot it had left.

When then is pulled out to the front of the sentence and is being used to connect two sentences, it is called a “conjunctive adverb.” It takes a period or semicolon in front and no comma after because it is one syllable.

…My husband was trying to talk to her; then he called the doctor.
…I was driving southbound on Montana; then I turned left.

Sometimes theĀ  word then has no meaning at all. It is used as a throwaway word. In this case, it takes commas.

…I am following his directions, then.
…Are you saying, then, that he is not a part of this?

Happy punctuating!


Comments 6

  1. Thank you!! I’ve started proofreading about a month ago and couldn’t believe how often people use the word “then” and couldn’t find the rules on it. This really cleared up a lot of questions.

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  2. What about when they use “then” at the beginning of the sentence like so….
    Q And then safety labels had been removed?

    Would you put commas on each side of “then” or nothing?

    By the way, I love your blogs!!! Thank you!!

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      When “then” means “at that time,” it is an adverb and needs no punctuation; otherwise, it is a throwaway word and needs commas. In your sentence, I think it is an adverb and does not need commas.

      I am glad you are finding them useful.


  3. I heard someone use the term ” comma ing set up ” in reference to screen play writing. Can you explain what that means?

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      Gosh, Joe, I have no idea. Maybe it is a term of art in the industry.

      Sorry I could not be of more help.


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