What Does “Therefore” Mean?

Recently, I wrote something that was copyedited by a poorly trained editor. She caught a few typos, for which I was grateful. However, she introduced more errors than she fixed. The most infuriating thing she did was to add the word therefore inappropriately in several places. If I had more than three statements in a paragraph, she’d often stick in therefore at the beginning of the last statement, just as you’d put the word and before the last item in a list that you’ve written out in a sentence. I asked her why she kept adding therefore. She said it was “for flow.” I started to explain why the added therefores made no sense, but then I realized that I was not talking with a Vulcan. It is probably pointless to try to reason with someone who is so illogical that she does not understand what therefore means.

Grammatically, the word therefore is a conjunctive adverb. Like other adverbs, therefore can modify a clause or sentence as a whole. Like conjunctions, therefore connects things. However, the word therefore does more than connect grammatical elements. It can be used to mark the conclusion of an argument. It can be used to express the idea that something is true because something else is true. If you stick therefore here and there throughout your text, “for flow” instead of to indicate logical relationships, logical people will think that you are insane.

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