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Comma Before or After “Regardless”: Rules & Tips

Comma Before or After “Regardless”: Rules & Tips
Commas are confusing creatures. You don’t know when to use them and when to ditch them.

Nevertheless, you must learn when to add a comma to your sentence if you want to make your writing more legible.

You see, a big part of using commas revolves around the meaning of a sentence and the information being conveyed.

For instance, when relaying essential information, you usually won’t use a comma.

Conversely, when the information you are writing is additional, unnecessary stuff, you will be required to use a comma.

Ergo, commas aren’t flashy punctuation or ornate ways of defining pauses within a sentence.

Instead, they are a way of clarifying meaning and making the readers’ lives easier.

A missed comma can make all the difference between a comprehensible and unintelligible sentence.

However, there are some fringe cases where even the experts disagree on whether you should use a comma or not.

One such case is the word “regardless.”

So, let’s see when you should use a comma with the word “regardless” and when you shouldn’t.
 

 

Should I use a comma before or after “regardless”?

Firstly, it depends on the usage of the word. There are some cases, such as when “regardless” acts as an adverb at the start of a sentence, where a comma is absolutely essential. There are other cases, such as when “regardless” is part of a prepositional adverbial phrase, where a comma before the word might not be necessary. And, finally, there are cases where a comma might not be enough, and you will either need a semicolon or a period.

Secondly, it depends on who you ask. Most experts will say that there are cases where the choice is entirely up to you. But, before you can understand these cases, we need to take a deeper dive into the word and its usages.

 

What part of speech is “regardless”?

The word “regardless” on its own is an adverb. Yet, when followed by “of,” it becomes a preposition.

And, when it’s a preposition, it forms a prepositional phrase that functions as an adverbial phrase within a sentence.

Let’s look at a few examples to help clarify matters.

He didn’t know the answers to half the questions on the test. Regardless, he managed to pass.

In the above sentence, “regardless” is an adverb that modifies the verb “managed.” It gives us an idea of how he managed to pass the test.

Regardless of what others thought, he changed careers and took up acting.
 
In the second example, “regardless of” starts a prepositional phrase, and this prepositional phrase functions as an adverbial phrase that modifies the verb “changed.”

It lets us know that this change was done without any regard for others’ opinions.

He always found the comedian funny regardless of what the critics had to say.

In the third example above, “regardless of” is also a preposition that starts an adverbial phrase, and it modifies the verb “found” by letting us know that his “finding” wasn’t affected in any way by the critics.

 

When to use commas with “regardless”?

 

When regardless forms an adverb

Let’s start with the simple situation when “regardless” is an adverb.

 

Regardless at the beginning of a sentence

For starters, when it comes at the beginning of a sentence, you always have to follow it with a comma.

She wanted to go out. Regardless, she had to stay home to finish the presentation.

 

Regardless at the end of a sentence

When “regardless” comes at the end of a sentence, that’s when things get tricky. There are two main cases to look at.

If “regardless” isn’t followed by anything, then it doesn’t take a comma.

Even though people warned him of the dangers, he performed the operation regardless.

However, if “regardless” is followed by an independent clause, then a comma might not be enough in this case. You see, when “regardless” is at the beginning of an independent clause, you have to either use a semicolon or a period.

INCORRECT: He knew the professor might fail him, regardless, he took the oral test.

The above sentence is incorrect. You can’t use a comma here because “regardless” isn’t a conjunction that ties two independent clauses together.

Rather, you need to treat it the same way you would treat the word “however.”

Here are the correct ways to write the above sentence.

He knew the professor might fail him; regardless, he took the oral test.
He knew the professor might fail him. Regardless, he took the oral test.

 

When “regardless” forms a preposition

The second and more interesting case is when “regardless” forms a preposition, giving us “regardless of.”

This is by far the more common usage and is the one that allows some nuance.

 

When “regardless of” comes at the beginning of a sentence

In this case, the entire prepositional phrase is followed by a comma because it functions as an adverbial phrase that comes at the beginning of a sentence.

Regardless of the consequences, the guilty criminal turned herself in.

Here, “regardless of” is a preposition, and “regardless of the consequences” is a prepositional phrase that functions as an adverbial phrase.

It modifies the verb “turned,” giving us an idea of how the criminal handed themselves to the authorities.

 

When “regardless of” comes at the end of a sentence

Now, this is where the experts have differing opinions. When the preposition “regardless of” comes at the end of a sentence, some will argue that it shouldn’t be preceded by a comma because it is an adverbial phrase.

Besides, a comma here wouldn’t add much to the meaning of the sentence, so putting one here would be superfluous.

Others will contest that putting a comma is a stylistic choice rather than a grammatical one.

In other words, this latter camp asserts that putting a comma or not are both correct choices, and it is up to the writer to choose which option to go for.

They will say that there might be good reasons for going with a comma, such as including a pause in the writing and giving the reader the chance to breathe.

Let’s look at examples from both camps.

We studied the entire curriculum regardless of what was coming on the test.

OR

We studied the entire curriculum, regardless of what was coming on the test.

You will find both versions if you search online.

So, which one should you go for?

Well, it’s entirely up to you. If you use your commas to give your readers an opportunity to breathe, then you might be in favor of the camp that espouses the usage of a comma.

Conversely, if you want to be consistent and your main focus is pure meaning, then you probably shouldn’t place a comma.

 

Other words that are similar to “regardless”

 

The infamous “irregardless”

Before we move on, we need to clarify something. “Irregardless” may or may not be a word, depending on who you ask. (Isn’t English lovely?)

This is a very common question that English speakers ask.

According to several grammarians, “irregardless” is not a word. After all, the prefix “ir-” doesn’t add anything in this context, making it non-sensical and purposeless.

However, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, not only is “irregardless” a word, but it has also been in use for more than 200 years.

“Irregardless” has the same meaning as “regardless,” and the “ir-” serves as an intensifier, which doesn’t happen often in English but it does happen.

So, what do we recommend?

Simply put, you shouldn’t use “irregardless,” yet you shouldn’t be too quick to correct those who use it either.
 
It’s enough to understand that even though it exists, “irregardless” is extremely unpopular, if not directly frowned upon.
 
And, even though “irregardless” behaves the same way as “regardless,” both as adverb and preposition, we will not use it as an example of similar words due to its unpopularity.
 
We just needed to clear the air.
 
With that out of the way, let’s look at a few words that behave similarly to “regardless.”

 

Words that behave like “regardless” the adverb

We’ve already seen how the word “however” is similar to “regardless.” Another example worth looking at is “nevertheless.”


He liked the novel’s ending. Nevertheless, he felt that it could have been done better.

He liked the novel’s ending; nevertheless, he felt that it could have been done better.
He liked the novel’s ending, but he felt that it could have been done better nevertheless.

 

Other words that function in a similar fashion include “nonetheless,” “otherwise,” “instead,” and “anyway.”
 

Words that behave like “regardless of”, the preposition

The first example we will look at is “despite.” This is another preposition that usually precedes a prepositional phrase. Here are a couple of clarifying examples.

Despite of her injury, she managed to finish the entire race.
She managed to finish the entire race despite her injury.

And, here is even a fuller example where “despite” comes at the end of a sentence.

He called the police despite the fact that he was unsure whether it was the right thing to do.
He called the police, despite the fact that he was unsure whether it was the right thing to do.

Again, we believe that it is best not to use a comma and that the former option is more preferable.

It’s about being consistent with other adverbial phrases and clauses that might come at the end of a sentence.

Another phrase that behaves similarly is “in spite of.” 

But we will save that phrase for another article! 

There’s already enough content for you to digest, right?