Comma placement with “instead” doesn’t have to be challenging. Some people struggle with it, but once you understand the fundamentals, it’s easy. This article will look at the comma placement both before and after “instead” to see which is correct.
Should I Place A Comma Before Or After “Instead”?
Generally, you should not place a comma before or after “instead.” It works well as a standalone phrase which doesn’t add further detail to the sentence. However, we might include a comma directly after it when used as an introductory remark.
The one and only time where a comma works after “Instead” is when we introduce a sentence with it. You can see that in the following example:
- He didn’t go to Florida as he had planned. Instead, it was better that he went elsewhere.
“Instead” is most commonly used as a preposition, which is why we very rarely use commas alongside it. It will take away from the sentence structure and make it much harder for most people to understand what you’re trying to write.
The best place to include “Instead” is at the very end of the sentence. This is because native speakers structure their spoken word in this way, and it’s the best way to use it for them to understand that you’re giving a different option.
When Should I Place A Comma After “Instead”?
So, when can we place a comma after “instead?” Clearly, it’s not possible to place one before it, so we can only look at what comes after.
You should place a comma after “instead” when it’s used as an introductory remark. That means it comes at the beginning of a sentence.
Without a sentence beforehand, “instead” can never start a new sentence. “Instead” introduces a new idea from the previous one, which is impossible if you don’t first introduce the previous idea.
So, the following example:
- Instead, I’m here to help.
Is incorrect unless we include a sentence before it.
- I was supposed to be at work, but I got the day off. Instead, I’m here to help.
This is the correct way to write the sentence where the previous sentence directly contradicts the new information included with “instead.” We also include the comma after “instead” here because it works as an independent clause.
When Should I NOT Place A Comma After “Instead”?
Just about every other time that we use “instead” works without a comma. As we’ve mentioned earlier, “instead” is a preposition, making it highly unlikely that you’ll ever need to punctuate it with a comma.
“Instead” is a preposition, and we don’t need to place a comma after it in most cases. Usually, people write it at the end of sentences, so we use periods. However, if it comes in the middle, we do not include a comma.
You can see that in practice in the following examples:
- I’d like to find something else to do instead.
- Instead of what you said, I think we should try this out!
- I think that he should instead make sure that he’s going to be happy.
As you can see, all of these examples use “instead,” but none of them come with a comma before or after it. In all of these cases, the sentences are grammatically correct, and a comma is unnecessary to include with “instead.”
“Instead” works similarly to “rather,” which also doesn’t need commas to punctuate it. They are both transitional prepositions that do a great job of introducing new and different ideas to the previous ones.
Examples Of How To Use A Comma After “Instead” In A Sentence
While it’s rare, you might find cases where a comma does come after “instead.” We’ll include some examples to show you the only case where it’s acceptable.
- I was supposed to be there. Instead, I’m stuck at home with you.
- I needed to get out. Instead, I got lost and couldn’t find my way back.
- You shouldn’t be here. Instead, you should try and find a nice school that’ll take you in.
- He made it his mission to win. Instead, he eventually lost when he tried too hard!
- You should have seen it. Instead, you were getting drunk alone at home.
- We wish we could have been there. Instead, they called us back to work for another hour.
- They couldn’t see the clock to tell the time. Instead, they watched the sun across the sky to guess the time.
As you can see, we ONLY include a comma after “instead” when it’s an introductory remark for a new sentence. If this isn’t the case, no comma is needed.
Examples Of How NOT To Use A Comma After “Instead” In A Sentence
We almost never use commas with “instead,” which is why we wanted to include this section. We’ll cover some more examples of times where commas aren’t necessary.
Some of these examples will feature “instead” at the beginning, middle, and end of the sentence, so pay attention to which one is where.
- Instead of being needy, why don’t you just ask him what’s wrong?
- You should instead find out more about us before you jump the gun.
- I don’t think there’s much I’d like to do instead of this.
- I think I’d like to try this out instead.
- Wouldn’t you prefer it if we did something different instead?
- Instead of watching me suffer, why don’t you help me out a little bit?
- I can instead find something to waste my time with if you’d like me to.
With “instead,” we usually avoid punctuation. If we start the sentence with it, we capitalize it. If we end the sentence with it, we place a period there. If it’s in the middle of a sentence, we do nothing else with it.
The easiest rule to follow with “instead” is that we generally won’t need any punctuation. If you can remember this, you’ll have a much better time understanding how it works and when to use it.
Is It Ever Correct To Use “Instead” Without A Comma?
Using “instead” without a comma is the recommended way to use the phrase. Many people use “instead” without a comma because it’s not an independent clause.
Native writers do not include commas with “instead,” which is why it’s almost always correct to avoid doing so yourself.
The only time that you’ll ever see a comma with “instead” is when you introduce a new sentence with it. Even then, there are often better alternatives to writing the sentence in this way.
Can You Start A Sentence With “Instead”?
We briefly mentioned in the previous section that “instead” can start a sentence. However, it’s not always the best way to write it. Most of the time, native speakers prefer to include “instead” at the end of the sentence.
“Instead” can start a sentence as an introductory remark or with the phrase “instead of” to compare two things. Other than that, it’s not used at the start of the sentence.
It’s most common to find “instead” at the end. We can show you this with the following example:
- I couldn’t make it there today. Instead, I went to the movies.
While this is grammatically correct, this isn’t the best way to write the above sentence. Most native speakers would keep “instead” at the end, and the sentence would look more like this:
- I couldn’t make it there today, so I went to the movies instead.
Rather than two sentences, we can turn it into one and use “so” to introduce a new idea.
Where Should I Place The Comma When Using “Instead Of” In A Sentence?
“Instead of” is a phrase that introduces a new idea with comma usage. Luckily, this one is fairly easy to remember.
“Instead of” does not have a comma directly after or before it. We include the comma only once the clause is complete, which allows us to break the sentence with “instead of” into two sections.
“Instead of” introduces a clause that comes with a different idea. We generally put a comma at the end of the clause once it’s complete.
- Instead of laughing at me, you could always help.
- Instead of being stupid, you could learn a thing or two from me.
As you can see, the comma goes after the end of the clause, which is introduced by “instead of.” Commas break up two independent clauses in this way, making it easier for someone to read.
Where Should I Place The Comma When Using “But Instead” In A Sentence?
The punctuation rules for “but instead” present a new challenge entirely. People often get quite confused with this one, so make sure you pay attention.
“But instead” has a comma before and after it. It’s treated as a parenthetical element, where it combines two sentences with each other. If it was removed from the sentence, we would replace it with a period.
- I can’t make it, but instead, I would like my friend to go.
- I can’t make it. I would like my friend to go.
- I thought we were friends, but instead, I guess we’re not.
- I thought we were friends. I guess we’re not.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.