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When starting a sentence with "then", which punctuation is correct? "Then, discuss...

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sfwriter | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted October 23, 2010 at 1:11 PM via web

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When starting a sentence with "then", which punctuation is correct?

"Then, discuss with the others."

"Then discuss with the others."

Wondering if the introductory-phrase comma rule applies here or not.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 23, 2010 at 2:15 PM (Answer #1)

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Then, discuss with the others.

 According to Hodges' Harbace Handbook, one should use a comma to set off words such as interjections, vocatives (words used to address someone directly), or transitional words.  In this sentence, then seems to be used as a transitional word of order.

The Chicago Manual of Style states that introductory sentences usually require a comma, but a single word or short phrase does not except to avoid misreading. So, a comma still seems in order if one is using then to introduce a step in a procedure. Rule:  Whenever a pause is in order, use a comma. For example,      

First, read the material that has been distributed.  Then, discuss with the others.

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william1941 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted October 23, 2010 at 1:41 PM (Answer #2)

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I think "Then, discuss with the others." would be proper to use if the usage is meant to imply that students have to first think about something independently and then they are required to share their views and discuss about it with others as a group.

The other usage is more appropriate if you're telling someone that if they have some difficulty in deciding on something, the alternative is to discuss about it with others. So: I see that you can’t decide what color to paint the walls."Then discuss with the others."

So, the first usage is indicative of when the discussion has to be done and the second provides discussion as a means to solve a problem.

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