Rule 1: You should always use a comma after “otherwise” when it connects two clauses.
In these instances, you should also put a semicolon before “otherwise” rather than a comma.
- Correct: We need to leave; otherwise, we will be late.
- Incorrect: We need to leave, otherwise, we will be late.
- Incorrect: We need to leave otherwise we will be late.
Rule 2: Use a comma after “otherwise” when it starts a sentence.
- Correct: Someone needs to tell him. Otherwise, he will continue living in ignorance.
- Incorrect: Someone needs to tell him. Otherwise he will continue living in ignorance.
Rule 3: Do not use a comma when “otherwise” is an adjective that means “different” or “of another nature.”
- Correct: His behavior ruined an otherwise excellent evening.
- Incorrect: His behavior ruined an otherwise, excellent evening.
Do you want to learn more about the rules of using “otherwise” with and without commas? Then continue reading to see some more examples.
When to Use a Comma After “Otherwise”
Please refer to Rules 1 and 2 to see when to use a comma after “otherwise.”
Rule 1: Use a comma after “otherwise” when it connects two clauses.
In these instances, you must also put a semicolon before “otherwise” and not a comma.
The clauses connected by “otherwise” can be both independent and dependent.
- He needs to practice his English more; otherwise, he will fail the English exam again.
- We need to buy some food; otherwise, we won’t have any for next week.
Rule 2: Use a comma after “otherwise” when it is the starting word in a sentence.
Instead of connecting “otherwise” with a semicolon and comma, it is often easier just to start a new sentence. When you do this, you need to put a comma after “otherwise.”
- We need to pack for the trip tonight. Otherwise, I will not feel organized.
- Let’s meet this Friday. Otherwise, I won’t see you before I leave.
When to Avoid a Comma With “Otherwise”
Rule 3 explains when you should avoid using a comma with “otherwise.”
Rule 3: You shouldn’t use a comma with “otherwise” when it functions as an adjective.
As an adjective, the meaning of “otherwise” differs from when it is a conjunction. In this context, “otherwise” means something like “differently from normal” or “of another nature.”
- The food was the only negative in an otherwise great vacation.
- He had a huge coffee stain on his otherwise spotless white shirt.
When to Use a Comma Before “Otherwise”
When you need to decide when to use a comma before “otherwise,” you should refer to Rule 4.
Rule 4: Use a comma before “otherwise” when it is the first word of a non-essential element.
A non-essential element means you can remove it, and the sentence is still correct. In this sense, “otherwise” functions to provide an “alternative” name or way of saying something.
- The boxer competing on the night, otherwise known as ‘The Hurricane,’ had never lost a fight.
- The lake, otherwise referred to as the lagoon, was the town’s focal point.
Use a comma after “otherwise” when it starts a sentence. Also, use a semicolon before and a comma after “otherwise” when it connects two clauses. However, you do not need to use a comma when “otherwise” is an adjective. E.g., “An otherwise uneventful day was interrupted by an earthquake.“