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Comma after “occasionally” — The Definitive Guide

Comma after “occasionally” — The Definitive Guide

If you’ve ever written more than a few words in English, chances are good you’ve run into commas.

Commas, like it or not, are everywhere. So why are they so hard to understand?

The truth is that they’re not. Commas follow a fairly simple set of rules but can be a struggle for many writers and readers who may not have received clear instruction in school or other settings.

Let’s take a look at how to use commas after one specific word, “occasionally.”
 

When do you place a comma after “occasionally”?

The word “occasionally” means that something doesn’t happen very often. When using “occasionally” in a sentence, you only need a comma after the word if it is set off from the sentence as nonessential information or appears at the end of introductory phrase. You should never use a comma after “occasionally” when the word is used to directly describe a verb or if it appears elsewhere in an introductory phrase.

 

When to use commas after “occasionally”

Typically, adverbs like “occasionally” are placed directly in front of a verb without being followed by a comma.

As we can see from the examples above, however, sometimes you do need a comma after “occasionally.”

One reason you might is because adverbs can also serve as ways to introduce an entire clause or sentence. Additionally, the word may be an example of nonessential information.

Let’s take a look at these cases and how to use a comma after “occasionally” in each of them.
 

Occasionally as nonessential information

Nonessential information is anything in a sentence you can take out and still have the sentence carry its intended meaning.

For example, “I eat fish” has only essential information. You can’t remove any word and still say exactly the same thing.

Sometimes, it’s not really essential that the word “occasionally” be included in the sentence to carry the meaning.

If you’re listing three things somebody enjoys and want to show that the first two are more common than the third, for example, you might put “occasionally” in front of the third to show it’s not as common.

It’s worth noting that this use of “occasionally” is mostly for emphasis. It’s a little counter-intuitive, but in this case marking information as nonessential just draws more attention to it.

Examples

“Mrs. Jones reads gardening manuals, cookbooks and, occasionally, three-thousand page epic poems about slaughtering one’s enemies.”

Here, the word occasionally is used primarily for comedic effect. Setting it off from the rest of the sentence technically marks it as nonessential information.

In reality, it just clues the reader in to the punchline.
 

Occasionally at the end of an introductory phrase

Introductory phrases are groups of words that introduce a clause or longer sentence.

With most introductory phrases, you need to place a comma in between the phrase and the rest of the sentence.

That means if your introductory clause ends with “occasionally,” you will usually need to place a comma after it.

Examples

“We went swimming occasionally, in the days when I was young.”

 

When not to use commas after “occasionally”

Although there are some cases, noted above, when commas after occasionally are grammatical, in most cases they should not be used.

 

Occasionally as an adverb directly describing a specific word or phrase

The good thing about adverbs is that there are very well-defined rules about commas in between them and the word they modify.

To be honest, it’s only one rule: don’t use a comma after occasionally when it’s modifying a specific word or phrase in a sentence.

Just follow the word with the word or phrase it modifies immediately, instead.

Examples

“I occasionally eat fish.”
“Lightning occasionally flashed, filling the sky with light.”

Here, the word “occasionally” appears directly in front of the words it modifies. No commas required.
 

Comma usage with “occasionally” as an introductory adverb

We’ve already covered introductory phrases. What about when “occasionally” is used as a single-word introductory phrase?

Commas are actually optional after very short introductory phrases, but a good rule of thumb for introductory adverbial phrases is to add a comma if they modify the entire clause or sentence they proceed rather than just a single part of it.

Examples

“Occasionally, Susan strikes gold.”

“Occasionally walking is good for your health.”

If this is too confusing, you can almost always rephrase a sentence that starts with occasionally to be clearer and not require a comma.

“Susan occasionally strikes gold.”
“Walking occasionally is good for your health.”

Comma after occasionally: The Definitive Guide

 

The meaning and use of “occasionally” in a nutshell

The word “occasionally” is an adverb meaning that something doesn’t happen often. You can use this word to show that something you do is unusual, rather than habitual.

If you aren’t familiar with the grammatical term, an adverb is used primarily to describe verbs like “walk” or “swim” or “self-destruct.”

Adverbs can also be used to describe other things, though, such as adjectives, clauses, entire sentences and even other adverbs.

No matter how it’s being used, just remember that “occasionally” means “something that is not frequent.”
 

Examples

“It occasionally rains on sunny days.”
“I like yellow and occasionally purple.”

These are pretty straightforward uses of “occasionally.” Let’s look at some more complicated ones.

“Mr. Strauss listens to opera, waltzes and, occasionally, hip hop.”
“Occasionally, I am filled with an inexplicable sadness.”