Normally how do you punctuate? 

Rosie Right

Rosie has discussed commas in this space many times. Let's return to the subject once more just to show how dizzying the topic can be.

The sentence crossed her desk (actually her computer) that began with "Normally we do it this way…." Rosie thought there should be a comma after Normally because she would naturally pause there when she was reading the sentence. Others who are very thoughtful writers here at Style thought not.

AP is clear on the matter: "The comma may be omitted after short introductory phrases if no ambiguity would result.…"

This pronouncement would indicate that a comma after Normally might be out of place. But still, if you read the sentence aloud, it appears to Rosie that one would pause after saying normally, and a comma should indicate that.

Our friend Don Dale put the matter up for discussion on the copy editors Internet chat line. The responses he received were illuminating. Here is a sampling:

"I heard once that a single adverbial word at the start of a sentence, when modifying the whole sentence, needs no comma. Generally I find that true. Unfortunately, I have forgotten where I heard it." — Mark L. Levinson

"Normally we do it this way is a puzzle to me. I might not use the comma here, probably because the sentence is quite short, and I'm looking at the word Normally as modifying just do and not the entire sentence. If the sentence read Essentially, we do it this way or some such, I would use the comma." — Siobhan M. Sheehan

"I think it depends on what you're emphasizing. Say the sentence out loud. Would you emphasize Normally (suggesting that someone has done something out of the norm)? Then use the comma. Would you emphasize Normally (just passing on information — this is what we do)? Then no comma." — Ilene Zapol

Rosie especially enjoyed this one:

"I write (and edit) such sentences sometimes with the comma after the introductory word (usually an adverb), sometimes without. Sometimes it depends on the word. Sometimes it depends on the author's style. Sometimes it depends on my mood … or the phases of the moon …or the abundance or lack of fog.…" —Joanne Sandstrom

Now (comma?) there's a rule we can follow.

Thanks to all the other members of the chat group who sent Rosie their comments about


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