Conjunctive adverbs: 15 words you never need to use

Dictionary page with prohibited symbol over it

Conjunctive adverbs are one of the new categories of adverbs created by modern grammarians. Most of these words fit into the traditional grammar categories of adverbs of reason or degree. The recognition of conjunctive adverbs is the main reason I disagree with modern grammar!

In modern grammar, conjunctive adverbs, sometimes called sentence connectors by other modern grammarians, are words that can connect two sentences to form one. In traditional grammar (and even by the definition of adverbs in modern grammar), adverbs cannot do this: this function belongs to another part of speech, the conjunctions (which I’ll explore soon).  To me, it makes no sense at all to say that adverbs can still be adverbs are yet do the work of conjunctions. These are the main adverbs that are said to behave in this way:

  • anyway
  • certainly
  • consequently
  • conversely
  • furthermore
  • hence
  • however
  • indeed
  • likewise
  • namely
  • nevertheless
  • nonetheless
  • otherwise
  • therefore
  • thus

(There are more words in this category but these are the main culprits).

My observations, over many years as working as an editor, is that these words, when used to join two sentences or ideas to form one sentence, simply create waffle. It is far better to use conjunctions, in particular, and or but or or. Consider this sentence:

  • Anyway, we certainly, however, have indeed, nonetheless, hence made a decision.

And now consider this sentence:

  • But we have made a decision.

Is there any real difference in meaning between the two? One is clear and easy to understand; the other is full of padding that muddies rather than clarifies meaning. You may think using these words makes your writing sound more formal or more important: they don’t. Readers have never asked for what they read to be made longer or less clear.

In short, you simply never need to use these words. When you review your writing, if you spot them, delete them. (I will look in detail at the use of however in a few weeks.)

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