It is a perplexing word that denotes a contradiction between statements and can seem like a difficult word to use. The English word “however" is a rather useful tool in essays, speeches and debates. Regardless, the conjunctive word can trip up writers who may confuse the proper punctuation or intent of this often misused word. Know how to correctly use the word “however” before embarking on an essay or report and bring home the best grade.
Definition of However
It is a handy word for creating a pause when a writer or speaker is intending to create a moment to punctuate a point between two contrasting statements. The word "however" is mainly used to introduce a statement that contrasts with the one that it follows. If a previous statement says that “roses are red,” the follow-up statement would begin with “However, that depends on the species.”
When placed at the beginning of a sentence, the word “however” is intended to mean “but” or “on the other hand.” When you put however at the end of a sentence, the word can mean an aside by the writer. Both uses require a comma, after a word at the beginning of a sentence and before the word when it is used at the end. If the word is meant to infer that something is done “by whatever amount,” then no comma is used. For instance, “However long it takes, it still will not be satisfactory.” It can be difficult to use “however” in the middle of a sentence, but when used correctly it can help complete sentences become more intriguing.
However in a Compound Sentence
Once the writer realizes how “however” can best be used, they need to understand the punctuation that assists this statement-linking word. Proper punctuation allows for the reader to clearly understand the point being made. If “however” joins two simple sentences that together create a compound sentence, it is there to show contrast between the first sentence and second sentence. This requires a semi-colon before the word “however” and a comma after the word and after the previous sentence. When using comma splices, a common mistake would just be forgetting it all together or overuse. Overall, it’s pretty easy to use.
However at the Beginning of a Sentence
Starting a sentence with however is an entirely different thing. When the word is being used to begin a sentence, a simple comma will do. Teachers prefer the word “however” to not be overused, as it can take away from the impact of the essay. It is best to use the word “however” as it was intended, in a compound sentence meant to contrast two points or statements instead of using however at the beginning of a sentence.
While it is also acceptable to begin a paragraph with the word “however,” it may be frowned upon by teachers and scholars. Some feel it stops the flow of the writer’s intent. While grammatically correct, it is not ideal if a student is searching for a good grade.
Professional writers who use “however” a lot include business writers. In business writing, there is many contrasts and points to be made that need “however” to link different parts of a sentence. Whether you’re using conjunctive adverbs, dependent clauses, or independent clauses, “however” is an important part of speech and the English language.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.