BigDog's Grammar


The Doc has some fancy words for joiners like coordinating conjunctions, conjunctive adverbs, and who knows what else. But hey, a joiner is a joiner. Knowing their names is good, but knowing how they work is better!

Remember what I said about comma-splices and fused sentences? One way to correct them is to join two main clauses with a coordinating conjunction. You're thinking, "Fine, but what are they?" Just think "FANBOYS" and you have every single one of them:

For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So . . . FANBOYS

Sure it's silly, but it's easy to remember. Look at the following examples and pay attention to where the commas go:

  1. He threw the Frisbee, and I caught it.
  2. I ran after the cat, but I couldn't catch it.
  3. He filled up her food bowl, yet she wouldn't eat.
  4. They wanted to go walking without me, so I gave them my saddest look.
  5. I scratched my ear, for there was a bug in it.

(The use of for in the last sentence may sound funny to you. You'd probably be more comfortable with because. That's okay. Both are correct, but if you use because, drop the comma in this construction. Review the comments on punctuating subordinate clauses if you need to.)

Just pick the joiner that makes sense in your sentence, and put a comma in front of it. That's all there is to using coordinating conjunctions.

The second kind of joiner is a little different. Like the "FANBOYS," it joins two main clauses, but it also works as a transition (that is, it shows a logical relation between them).

Probably the most common transitional joiners are therefore and however. Others are: also, thus, in addition, otherwise, instead, as a result, meanwhile, on the other hand, and consequently.

With these, you have to watch your punctuation. You need a semicolon to separate the two main clauses and a comma after the joiner. (If you only use a comma between the two main clauses, you've created a comma-splice.)

  1. I wanted to play in the backyard ; therefore, I went to the door.
  2. I scratched and barked ; however, I couldn't get his attention.
  3. Maybe he was working at the computer; on the other hand, he could have been asleep.

These should give you the idea; however, remember that we're talking about joining two main clauses. Sometimes you'll find one of these transitional joiners used differently. For instance:

Here, however and therefore do not join anything--they simply interrupt the flow of thought in the sentence. That's why they're only set off with commas.

Like most grammar basics, joiners aren't that hard to understand or to use. Just watch your punctuation, and you should have no problems.

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