Although is a marvelous word that – alas – even professional writers sometimes use incorrectly. Train your writing radar to keep a mental lookout for although, and follow these simple rules:
1. Never put a comma after although.
Beware of writing something like this:
I decided to accept the job offer. Although, I had some doubts about the company’s stability. INCORRECT
Here’s the correct version:
I decided to accept the job offer although I had some doubts about the company’s stability. CORRECT
You could also write it this way:
I decided to accept the job offer. However, I had some doubts about the company’s stability. CORRECT
2. Always attach an although idea to a complete sentence. Anything that starts with although is an extra idea. It can’t stand alone: You have to attach it to a complete sentence. (Think of a garage – nice to have, but you need a house to go with it.)
Although I had some doubts about the company’s stability. I decided to accept the job offer. INCORRECT
Although I had some doubts about the company’s stability, I decided to accept the job offer. CORRECT
3. Yes, you can start a sentence with although! If you start a sentence with an although idea, end the idea with a comma, and follow it with a real sentence.
Suppose you wrote “Although the hurricane was headed our way.” This is an extra idea that can’t end with a period. What to do?
Your first choice is to end it with a comma and add a real sentence. (Think garage + house, as I mentioned earlier.) Here’s what you might have when you’re finished:
Although the hurricane was headed our way last night, early this morning it turned north and missed Florida completely. CORRECT
Another choice would be to put your extra idea at the back of a real sentence. In that case you wouldn’t use a comma. Here’s the result:
Early this morning the hurricane turned north and missed Florida completely although it was headed our way last night. CORRECT
4. Sometimes you can fix an although mistake just by substituting however. Nothing fancy is required: Just use a period and a capital letter.
Here’s a sentence that needs fixing (never put a comma after although, and never leave an although idea hanging out there by itself).
Gloria has been madly in love with Chuck ever since he showed up in her algebra class. Although, he’s not interested in her at all. INCORRECT
Substitute however, and you’re done! Take a look:
Gloria has been madly in love with Chuck ever since he showed up in her algebra class. However, he’s not interested in her at all. CORRECT
And that’s all there is to it! Those four simple rules will help you use although with confidence – an important skill for any serious writer.
Jean Reynolds, Ph.D., is a longtime English professor and Shaw scholar who has published eleven books. Her most recent book is What Your English Teacher Didn’t Tell You: Everything You Need to Know about Showcasing Yourself through Your Writing (Maple Leaf Press).