You can start a sentence with “otherwise” in formal and informal writing. There’s nothing grammatically wrong with doing so. However, it only works when it continues from the previous sentence. E.g., “We need to finish the report. Otherwise, Jean will be angry.”
Using the word “otherwise” at the beginning of a sentence is not massively common.
Instead, people often prefer to connect the two clauses in one sentence by using a semicolon:
- Correct: We need to leave now. Otherwise, we will be late.
- Correct: We need to leave now; otherwise, we will be late.
- Incorrect: We need to leave now, otherwise, we will be late.
Furthermore, the word “otherwise” always depends on the previous sentence. If there is no previous sentence, then you cannot start the sentence with “otherwise.”
You have now seen the basics of how to start a sentence with “otherwise.” Keep reading if you want to learn more about using “otherwise” in academic and informal writing.
Can You Start a Sentence With “Otherwise” in Formal Writing?
You can start sentences with “otherwise” in formal writing. However, it is not such a widespread practice because people usually use “otherwise” to connect clauses rather than sentences.
Furthermore, because of its meaning, the word “otherwise” always depends on the sentence before it.
- You must store the samples below 10 degrees Celsius. Otherwise, they will spoil.
- The paintings cannot have been originals. Otherwise, the security wouldn’t have been so lax.
Instead of appearing in two sentences, the above examples can also be connected in the same sentence:
- You must store the samples below 10 degrees Celsius; otherwise, they will spoil.
There are not many one-word equivalents of “otherwise.” Therefore, instead of using “otherwise,” you can choose other phrases such as:
- If not
- Or else
Here are two examples of how you can use these alternatives in a sentence:
- The police need to improve community relations, or else crime will only get worse.
- She should resign from her post. If not, it makes a mockery of the political system.
With that being said, “otherwise” is correct to use in formal writing. Therefore, you can use these synonym phrases to mix up your language, but you don’t have to.
Can You Start a Sentence With “Otherwise” in Informal Writing?
You can start sentences with “otherwise” in informal writing.
The most common function of “otherwise” at the start of a sentence is to form “conditional” style sentences.
- We need to save more money. Otherwise, we won’t be able to afford a vacation.
- He asked for help because he was desperate. Otherwise, he would never have done it.
These sentences do not always need to be new sentences and you could also connect them to the previous clause by using a semicolon rather than a period:
- We need to save more money; otherwise, we won’t be able to afford a vacation.
However, it is perfectly correct to start a sentence with “otherwise” in informal writing, and nobody would view it as odd to do so.