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Then what? Editor's Notes #151
October 16, 2013

Words are made for a certain exactness of thought,
as tears are for a certain degree of pain.

-- Rene Daumal

In this issue:

1. Then what?
2. Tickled my funnybone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Letters to the editor

1. Then what?
Recently, the word then has turned up on my computer screen in myriad misuses. It's time to set the record straight on this adverbial conjunction, also called a conjuctive adverb.

I'm going to deal here only with the word then being used to join two independent clauses. The errors I see most often are
1. He turned around, then he spoke to the crowd.
2. He turned around then he spoke to the crowd.

Error #1 is a comma splice, two sentences joined with a comma. Writers who make this error are treating the word then as a coordinating conjunction, which it is not. The coordinating conjunctions are and, but, for, nor, or, so, and yet. When they join independent clauses (clauses that can stand alone as sentences) they are preceded by a comma.

If a writer wants to link the two clauses as closely as possible using the word then, there are two correct methods.
a. He turned around, and then he spoke to the crowd.
b. He turned around; then he spoke to the crowd.

Error #2 is a run-on sentence, two or more sentences joined together without proper punctuation or conjunctions.

An alternative is to show that these are two separate independent clauses.
He turned around. Then he spoke to the crowd.

All three solutions are correct.


2.Tickled my funnybone
He often broke into song because he couldn't find the key.


3. Interesting Web site
Here is a good place to begin a study of parts of speech...

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