“After all the starts and stops, we keep coming back to these two hearts.”
Peter Cetera and Cher’s wedding song instantly played in my head upon seeing this topic.
A comma doesn’t really fit after “after all” in the song’s hook, but a comma seems necessary in “after all, he’s your dad.”
Why is this so? Well, all you’ve got to do is read until the end to understand the reasons, which are not that hard to digest.
Is a comma always needed after “after all?”
A comma after “after all” is essential when using the phrase as an introductory conjunctive adverb, as well as when it appears as the last word in the first clause of a compound sentence. Also, a post-comma is needed when it is used as a connective device after a semicolon, just like what we often do with “thus” and “hence”. Lastly, two commas may also encapsulate “after all” in the middle of a sentence when it is used as a parenthetical remark.
Considerations in placing a comma after “after all” in detail
“After all” is an adverb phrase that denotes the same meaning as “at the end of the day” in informal English.
More formally, the phrase can be used to mean “despite any or all contradicting or influencing factors.”
When constructing arguments this way, we intend to emphasize the acceptability or validity of a particular idea.
For example, we can use “after all” in conveying an opinion on a person who still needs acceptance despite doing something perceived as a negative act.
As you might have noticed the post-comma in the example above, let us now discuss when to use one in ample detail.
When “after all” is used as an introductory element
The first case that necessitates a comma after “after all” is when it is used as an introductory element.
Using “after all” this way makes the phrase function as a conjunctive adverb that creates an emphatic effect on whatever argument is being made.
The post-comma placement assists the smooth flow and transition of thought because of the pause it prompts.
Whereas, not placing a post-comma makes the sentence hard to digest, and thus, may easily lead to misinterpretation.
When “after all” is used as the last word in the first clause
Similarly, we may also use a comma after “after all” when it appears as the last phrase in the first clause in a compound sentence.
A compound sentence is composed of at least two independent clauses linked together with a coordinating conjunction, such as “and”, “or,” or “but.”
Good writers know that the coordinating conjunctions need a preceding comma to mark the independence of each clause.
So, this should also be the case with “after all” in case it is used as the last phrase before the conjunction.
When “after all” is used after a semicolon
The last case wherein a post-comma is necessary is when “after all” is used after a semicolon to introduce another independent idea.
“After all” also functions as a conjunctive adverb in this case, similar to how we use “thus” or “hence” in the same structure.
If you want to explore more on how semicolons do their job in sentences, please check out our other post covering this topic here.
Considerations in omitting the comma after “after all”
In this section, you will find out when putting a comma after “after all” becomes incorrect, as well as the possible cases in which the comma is optional.
The post-comma makes the sentence ungrammatical when “after all” functions as a prepositional phrase in the sentence.
However, the comma can be conveniently omitted when the adverbial phrase causes a weak interruption or when it is used in a more formal text.
Let’s tackle these nuances in detail to get a clearer view.
When “after all” is followed by a noun
Apart from the adverbial sense of “after all,” it may also function as a prepositional phrase in a sentence.
The use of prepositions entails the usage of nouns afterward, which is also possible with “after all.”
More technically speaking, “after” is the actual preposition in this structure, followed by the determiner “all” which then needs a subsequent object.
This means that when a noun follows “after all,” you are not using the phrase as an adverbial connector, but rather a preposition.
Prepositions need a noun or a noun phrase as an object, which has a different function from the earlier examples that focused on its adverbial sense.
Technicalities aside, let me just show you a sample line from one of Paramore’s songs that contains this usage.
I hope you’ve already heard of Hayley Williams singing Still Into You before, which was released back in 2013.
The next example is taken from the pre-chorus line.
As you can see, “after all” is followed by “this time,” a noun phrase; thus, never insert a comma when you’re structuring your sentence this way.
When “after all” causes a weak interruption
Now, let me introduce another case wherein the post-comma could just be deliberately removed.
This is possible when the writer is more interested in the overall idea conveyed by a relatively short sentence.
This means that the interruption would be too weak and the comma non-placement would not necessarily create any confusion to the reader.
Again, this guideline makes the comma omission possible but not necessary.
Hence, a comma may also be placed should the writer intend to do so, especially in an informal text.
When “after all” is used in a formal text
Lastly, lots of commas are also not encouraged when conveying a formal tone in writing, much less parenthetical remarks.
Interestingly, commas also have the ability to create a casual tonality in texts because of their rhythmic or prosodic function.
Put simply, using commas quite often in formalistic texts make the tone casual or personal, hence the recommended omission.
The non-placement of commas, therefore, helps in facilitating the neutral flow of an idea that is intended for more formal discourses.
The commas before and after “after all”
If you’ve been quite interested in this specific topic, you might have also noticed that two commas may sometimes encapsulate “after all” in texts.
The reason for that is not necessarily related to astrophysics, as it is rather explainable by the field of stylistics.
As briefly stated earlier, two commas may also be used before and after the phrase “after all” when the writer intends to use it as a parenthetical remark midway.
Parenthetical remarks are simply “accessories” in sentences and, thus, grammatically removable.
If you’ve noticed my use of “thus” in the previous sentence, then that means you have more or less understood this concept.
But of course, here’s an example to illustrate what has just been elaborated.
“After all” is parenthetically used in the example above for rhetorical reasons.
This means that “after all” doesn’t have to be included in the sentence, but it was optionally used to add emphasis, thereby making the sentence more interesting.
Commas are needed in marking these parenthetical elements to make the sentence more readable and nonetheless emphatic.
Frequently Asked Questions on Comma After “After All”
What is exactly meant by “after all?”
The adverbial sense of “after all” denotes the meaning “despite any or all contributing factors.” More colloquially, it simply means “at the end of the day” which can be used to draw emphasis toward an argument that is intended to be conclusive or inarguable.
How to use “after all” as part of a noun phrase?
“After all” may also be followed by a noun or noun phrase as in “after all the challenges,” “after all this time,” and “after all the starts and stops.”
Is “afterall” incorrect?
If the intention is to use the one-word expression as a name of a movement, group, or organization, then it can be correct. However, if the intention is to denote the meaning of “at the end of the day,” then it should be written into two separate words.
Punctuation decisions, especially with commas, can be excruciating and time-consuming even for the most prolific writers.
This is true because the perceived “hard rules” are merely inexistent, meaning the writer’s intention has to be critically considered in the process.
After all, commas and the other punctuation marks serve a single purpose in the written world of languages, that is, to disambiguate ideas.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.