Commas After 'Sadly', 'Unfortunately', 'Regrettably', and 'Unhappily'

At the beginning of a sentence, follow the sentence adverbs "sadly", "unfortunately", "regrettably", and "unhappily" with a comma.

At the beginning of a sentence, follow the sentence adverbs "sadly", "unfortunately", "regrettably", and "unhappily" with a comma.

Unfortunately, Olivia will be leaving us next week to join another company.

Unfortunately Olivia will be leaving us next week to join another company.

When them as regular adverbs, to modify a single word, we do not generally put a comma before or after them.

They sadly described the trade of humans for the purpose of forced labor.

1. Use Commas When Functioning as Sentence Adverbs

At the start of a sentence, the sentence adverbs "sadly", "unfortunately", "regrettably", and "unhappily" must be followed by a comma.

Regrettably, we must inform you that the flight is delayed several hours.

Regrettably we must inform you that the flight is delayed several hours.

Sentence adverbs are different from regular adverbs. They modify (describe) a complete sentence or clause—not a single word.

Unfortunately, our team didn't win the game.

Sentence adverbs reveal the attitude, opinion, or emotion of the speaker, writer, or thinker through a word choice.

Sadly, the quirks I used to adored in my husband when we first met are now just plain annoying.

They can also be placed, surrounded by commas, in the middle of a sentence.

The rescue team, unhappily, has not been able to find the missing mountaineers.

Farmers, regrettably, need to deal with many problems, including soil erosion and biodiversity loss.

In the end position, sentence adverbs should be preceded by a comma and followed by a period.

They have not been able to find the missing child, sadly.

Recommended: When to add a comma before or after the adverbs "fortunately", "happily", "luckily", "thankfully", etc.

2. Avoid Commas When Functioning as Regular Adverbs

Instead of describing a whole sentence or clause, you can use "sadly", "unfortunately", "regrettably", or "unhappily" to modify a single word.

Is it better to divorce or stay unhappily married?

A regular adverb modifies a single word ("married" in the example above) and not an entire sentence. In such a situation, we do not normally use commas.

The situation has been sadly described by the victims of violence.

These attacks have become regrettably common.

Some sentence adverbs can also be used as regular adverbs. Compare these examples:

She looked at her enemy and smiled sadly. (By functioning as a regular adverb—with no comma, "sadly" describes how she smiled.)

She looked at her enemy and smiled, sadly. (By functioning as a sentence adverb—with a comma, "sadly" expresses that it was sad that she looked at her enemy and smiled.)

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