Azar (in Understanding... ) makes the following distinction:

It was hot. Therefore, we went swimming. (Transition)

It was hot, so we went swimming. (conjunction)

q1: Are 'therefore' and 'so' not conjunctions?
q2. Can we use both commas and full stops to introduce the second sentence in both examples?

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Original Post
And, but, yet, so, nor, and or are known as conjunctions, or coordinating conjunctions. Like transitions, they link two or more independent clauses. The punctuation before a conjunction is always a comma, except with very simple, brief ideas, in which case a comma is unnecessary.

Therefore belongs to a group of words known as transitions, sentence adverbs, conjuncts, or conjunctive adverbs. They express a meaning relation between the idea in the second of two independent clauses and the first one. Other transition words include consequently, however, furthermore, and nevertheless.

With transitions, the second of the two independent clauses is always preceded by either a period (full stop) or, more commonly, by a semicolon [;]. Although commas are sometimes used before the second clause in informal writing, they are not considered correct, standard written style.

Conjunctions have only one possible position--exactly between the two independent clauses. You can say

She hadn't given us any lunch, so we stopped at the first place we found

You can't put the so in any other location. For example, you can't say

*She hadn't given us any lunch, we so stopped at the first place we found

In contrast, Therefore and the other transitions may occupy more than one position in the second independent clause. They can occur

1) at the beginning of the second independent clause:

She hadn't given us any lunch; therefore we stopped at the first place we found

2) between the subject and the main verb of the second clause:

She hadn't given us any lunch; we therefore stopped at the first place we found (no commas)

3) after the subject and main verb of the second clause:

She hadn't given us any lunch; we stopped, therefore, at the first place we found (commas obligatory)

4) at the end of the second clause:

She hadn't given us any lunch; we stopped at the first place we found, therefore

It's always safe to use a comma before a conjunction (except with very short, simple ideas) and a semicolon before a clause with a transition.

Marilyn Martin
Last edited {1}

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