Let Me Introduce You Uncategorized / Writing & Grammar

Hello everyone:

Introductory phrases can be wonderful. Or not. They can, if used to excess, muddy the water, bore your reader, and add tedium to your writing. What’s a person to do? Get rid of as many as you can.

Let’s start with “what is an introductory phrase?” It is, according to Siri, “an introduction to a subject or a topic; basis or preliminary.” It is stuck on the front of a sentence. Usually students who use them fail to use a comma afterwards, which muddies the literary waters. Here are some examples:

As you just read… should be written: As you just read,…

Most of the time… should be written: Most of the time,…

Since they are willing to pay scalper prices… should be written: since they are willing to pay scalper prices,…

In the beginning…. should be written: In the beginning,…

Conversely….. should be written: Conversely,…

And my all-time favorites: Firstly, secondly, lastly. Dump these three examples from your writing. You may, however, use first, second, third (or finally).

The sad thing is that the examples above are fine, but the student did not use a comma to separate the introductory phrase from the rest of the sentence. Occasionally, the student will realize that he or she needs a comma, but will put it in the wrong place.

Popular positions (which are incorrect, for the record) are between the subject and the verb in a sentence. Please note that, in the examples above, these are prepositional phrases. We have not yet gotten to the subject or verb.

Let’s move the introductory phrases somewhere else in the sentence, as follows:

The rain in Spain, as you just read, falls mainly on the plain. This is what happens, most of the time. We got good tickets because they were willing to pay scalper prices. It looked like a good deal, in the beginning. They told us, conversely, that it wasn’t.

I have now eliminated all of the introductory phrases and, in two cases, given you a parenthetical expression by moving the phrase to the middle of the sentence (where you now need two commas).

Best,

Dr. Sheri


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Sheri Dean Parmelee has a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Regent University. She writes books on practical tips for people who become unexpectedly unmarried and is working on her second novel in a series of contemporary romance/suspense novels. She teaches at three colleges, working with students from freshmen to graduate students. Her hobbies include running 8 miles a day and reading biographies and fiction.

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