“However”

Today I had some free time between a school meeting for M. and a work event, so I took a side trip to the Barnes & Noble to check out their supply of grammar books. I ended up purchasing Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style, because I felt like I needed to have it on my shelf, but I also bought Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, by Mignon Fogarty. (You can check out the website at http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com, but I’m not linking for fear of the WordPress Police). The cover attracted me because the little cartoon figure resembles a young me🙂

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Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing
by Mignon Fogarty

Later during JC’s karate class I had a minute to flip through the Grammar Girl book. It looks very informative and enjoyable. Obviously, I need to read it because just from scanning the information I realize I’m a writing disaster. Besides my love affair with the comma, I use fragments and improper punctuation, etc. etc. I will study the book and try to write better– I promise (I also overuse the “dash,” which I shouldn’t be typing with the hyphen key either).

In the meantime, I wanted to talk about one of my favorite words: “however.” One of my many bosses informed me that I am never to start a sentence with “however.”  Instead, “however” should always be in the middle of the sentence surrounded by commas.  For example:

I would like to win the lottery. However, I did not buy a ticket.

vs.

I would like to win the lottery, however, I did not buy a ticket.

To me, the first option makes more sense. The second option seems like a run-on.

I consulted the Grammar Girl book and she says I can use “however” in the beginning of a sentence, as long as I have the comma afterwards (*and Jess sticks her tongue out at boss behind his back*). I believe this is because “however” in the above examples is a conjunctive adverb and can be interpreted as “nevertheless,” whereas “however” without a comma takes on a whole new meaning:

However hard I tried, I could not win the lottery.

In this example, “however” is not a conjunctive adverb. Instead, it means “to whatever extent.”

Grammar Girl does note that old-school grammar traditionalists frown upon the practice of starting a sentence with “however.” An option to satisfy those traditional grammar geeks is to use the semicolon, with a comma after “however”:

I would like to win the lottery; however, I did not buy a ticket.

Addressing the Boss’s preferences for “however,” Grammar Girl does give the example of using “however” in the middle of the sentence, but not when it is connecting two independent clauses. For example, a proper use would be:

The lottery, however, is difficult to win.

When “however” is used like this, there should always be commas surrounding it.”The lottery” and “is difficult to win” are not independent clauses in this example. You wouldn’t write: “The lottery; however, is difficult to win.” Nor would you write: “The lottery. However, is difficult to win.”

So in this Boss Battle, I guess we are both right, depending on the sentence. (By the way, starting a sentence with “so” is also a no-no and I do it CONSTANTLY. How do you people even stand to read my horrendous writing? Ugh!).

Just thought I’d share; however, I realize you are all excellent writers.

Have a nice night!

9 Comments

  1. Good grammar rocks, except when it doesn’t. I think MotherJam said it quite well (doesn’t she always?). Using good grammar keeps you from looking stupid. Purposeful use of imperfect grammar makes you an interesting writer. Besides, it’s fun!

    Rats! No creative grammar errors here. Another point for MotherJam! And, of course, Jess, who can comma-pulate a sentence better than anyone — she’s that good, really.

    Like

  2. I’ll have to check out that book too; however😊, I don’t think I’ll look at “however” the same way ever again. I learned how to use the semi-colon before “however” followed by a comma. Maybe “but” could replace however. Sorry for my rambling on….

    Like

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