Rule 1: You should put a comma before “especially” when it starts a non-defining element of a sentence.
- Correct: He felt worse, especially because she was his sister, about what he had said to her.
- Incorrect: He felt worse especially because she was his sister, about what he had said to her.
Rule 2: You can put a comma before “especially” when it starts a dependent clause at the end of a sentence.
- Correct: He was willing to eat anything, especially exotic meats and insects.
- Incorrect: He was willing to eat anything especially exotic meats and insects.
Rule 3: Do not put a comma if “especially” directly modifies an adjective, adverb, or verb.
- Correct: He was especially tough after growing up in a harsh climate.
- Incorrect: He was, especially tough after growing up in a harsh climate.
In the rest of the article, you can learn more about the different rules and some exceptions. We’ve also included more helpful examples.
When to Use a Comma Before “Especially”
When you need to decide when to use a comma before “especially,” please see Rule 1 and Rule 2.
Rule 1: Use a comma before “especially” when it starts a non-essential part of a sentence.
Usually in these cases, “especially” appears in the middle of the sentence.
To know whether it is defining or not, if we remove the “especially clause,” the sentence still needs to make sense, and the overall meaning must remain the same.
- He shouldn’t have gone to work today, especially in his condition, since it was his day off.
- All the students, especially the girls, did well on the exam.
- I love spending time outdoors, especially during the summer, because the weather is perfect.
Rule 2: Use a comma before “especially” when it begins a dependent clause at the end of a sentence.
You can also call this type of clause a “final clause.” They often provide a reason or justification for something or emphasize a previous aspect of the sentence.
- Everyone felt terrible because Hannah was upset, especially those who had been mean to her.
- You need to try and remember the grammar content for the exam, especially the meaning of phrasal verbs.
- I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, especially when I’m gardening.
For some words, you need to use a semicolon to separate the clauses when they are both independent.
“Especially” is not a word for which you need to use a semicolon because the meaning of it means that if you insert it in the first or second clause, they are no longer independent.
- Harry was happy he was going shopping, especially because he wanted to buy some new shoes.
In this example, the word “especially” emphasizes the main reason for his happiness and is therefore not independent.
When to Avoid a Comma Before “Especially”
The following rule informs when you do not need to place a comma before “especially.”
Rule 3: You shouldn’t use a comma before “especially” when it explicitly modifies an adjective, adverb, or verb.
In these examples, the word “especially” is necessary for the sentence’s overall meaning because it adds emphasis to the terms it modifies.
- He especially enjoys reading fiction. (verb)
- He felt especially sensitive after losing the game. (adjective)
- He rode the bike especially quickly because he was late. (adverb)
- She especially loves chocolate ice cream. (verb)
- The cat looked especially fluffy after its bath. (adjective)
- The concert ended especially late last night. (adverb)
Should you ever use a comma after especially, though? We’ll discuss that next!
When to Use a Comma After “Especially”
Rule 4 explains when you should use a comma after “especially.”
Rule 4: Use a comma after “especially” when it appears as a non-essential element.
If we remove the “especially” clause in these sentences, the sentences are still correct. We insert the word “especially” merely to emphasize or focus on a specific aspect of the discussion.
We have shown this context in the example sentences below:
- People should learn to trust others, and most especially, their family and friends.
- Using a foreign language properly, most especially, using jokes and comedy, is challenging.
- Birds migrate south for the winter, especially, the European swallows.
- Learning a musical instrument, especially, mastering the technique, requires dedication.
- It’s essential to keep hydrated during summer, and especially, when exercising in the heat.
You do not generally use “especially” to start sentences. Instead, it appears more commonly in the middle or end of sentences.
You should use a comma before “especially” when it starts a non-essential element. Also, put a comma when it starts a dependent clause at the end of a sentence. However, you should not use a comma when “especially” directly modifies a verb, adjective, or adverb.