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This is what I have:

Entering the house, she realized that somehow, inside was worse.

I'm just using the comma here as a natural pause but should it have a comma before 'somehow' as well? That was what I had before but the sentence felt over-comma'd.

Is there a general rule? If I need to look these things up, what should I search under? What part of speech is 'somehow' when I use it like this?

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"Somehow" is an adverb. It is usually placed close to the verb it is describing and can be used without commas as a regular adverb.

Your sentence above doesn't require commas.

Entering the house, she realized that somehow inside was worse.

This isn't a "rule," but it's fairly common to see "somehow" used at the beginning or end of a sentence rather than in the middle...

Entering the house, she realized that inside was worse somehow.

... unless it is used as an aside, and then it would need to be surrounded by commas on both sides of the word.

Entering the house, she realized that, somehow, inside was worse.

As the sentence is written now, no commas are necessary.

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  • I think Friendly is broadly correct. I don't at all think mine is better, yet my own preference would be for "Entering the house she realized (that) somehow, inside was worse." There is no general rule but what feels right in your own experience and generally, that needs to be real experience - which means not looking these things up but reading more texts by different writers. – Robbie Goodwin Oct 11 '20 at 18:03
  • @RobbieGoodwin The problem with a single comma as you and OP have put it is not that it sounds incorrect if reading the comma only as a pause. Commas separate independent clauses; set off appositives; come after introductory clauses; demarcate items in a list; set off nonrestrictive clauses, format dates, times, and numbers; and have a handful of other uses. An ellipsis captures speaking pauses and "Entering the house[,] she realized that somehow... inside was worse" works fine. There's no general rule for how a sentence ought to flow, but there are rules for standard punctuation usage. – friendly Oct 11 '20 at 20:09
  • Thanks and when the problem with a single comma is not that it sounds incorrect if reading the comma only as a pause, what is the problem? IMHO, your ellipsis makes "Entering the house[,] she realized that somehow... inside was worse" purely idiomatic. That I think it doesn't work is my opinion, as that it works fine is yours. Either way, ellipses have no useful place here unless you can explain in detail how the rules for standard punctuation (usage) accommodate them. Don't you think "standard" punctuation describes how sentences should flow? – Robbie Goodwin Oct 11 '20 at 20:33
  • @RobbieGoodwin Standard punctuation describes flow. It does not dictate it. The ellipsis is the standard punctuation mark to denote a pause in speaking. A comma is used to separate clauses, which co-occurs with pauses in speaking. I agree that an ellipsis is not necessary, but a comma is incorrect. For me, if I were to encounter that single comma, it would read as an unnatural speaking pattern because you are using the comma incorrectly. This is even more true because my last example above, with two commas, is how you would actually describe the flow you and OP want with correct punctuation. – friendly Oct 12 '20 at 21:33
  • Go to Chat if you like - you're getting off topic - and remember while description is preferred, "standard punctuation" is a set of rules, by nature prescriptive. Because you find "Entering the house she realized (that) somehow, inside was worse" unnatural, don’t presume to dictate correct use. “Entering the house[,] she realized that somehow... inside was worse" is for direct speech, never for narrative. “Entering the house, she realized that, somehow, inside was worse” isn’t actually modern English usage. It's more archaic and hidebound than part of today’s idiom. – Robbie Goodwin Oct 13 '20 at 0:06

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