I’m posting this at stupid o’clock on a Sunday morning because I was rudely awakened by scaffolders working on the house next door. We asked the guy who owns the house if they wouldn’t mind moving their poles from outside our garage because Keith needs to get his classic car out to get some work done on it. That was last week, so they come today, Sunday morning, 8.15 am! Not impressed and I’m yawning as I type! I have a quiet day’s writing ahead of me, planning to start chapter two of ‘Episode’, but I could cheerfully go back to bed! ZZZZZZZ!
Meanwhile, back to this week’s blog post about the word ‘however’: can you use it at the beginning of a sentence? Definitely, if the sentence goes something like this: ‘However much you want to consider…’
Otherwise, if I use it in the middle of a sentence: ‘When we arrived at the shop, however, it was closed’ I would use a comma. If I’m using it as a bridge or transition to qualify information given, I would use a semicolon: ‘The weather was cold; however, he was wearing a thick coat.’ The problem with words like ‘however’ is that they aren’t used in everyday speech, so when it comes to writing them, it’s quite difficult to decide how to treat them. My problem is I’m quite old-fashioned: I don’t like starting a sentence with words like ‘And’, ‘But’ or even ‘Because’ (unless the context is something like, ‘Because of the injury, there were three minutes of stoppage time’), but I know these days those rules are relaxed and everyone and his dog does it (‘cept me!)
As you may or may not already know, I have a day job where I type clinic letters for doctors at a local hospital. Let’s be honest, doctors are clever-ish people, but they can neither spell properly, nor can they write legibly, so where do they get off correcting me – wot writes these books – on my grandma – I mean, my grammar?
On their dictations they say ‘full-stop’ (that’s ‘period’ to any American reading this: giggle) and then they say ‘However…’ (capital aitch); with me being a writer and knowing more or less WTF I’m doing, I ignore that and I type semicolon (or a comma if I think it merits it) then I type ‘however’ (lower case aitch). Why? 99 times out of a 100 I’m using the transition/bridging rule: ‘however’ is, in fact, a continuation of a sentence where it clarifies a point made in the previous part of the sentence. No one usually dares to correct me (though not everyone at work knows I’m a writer) and the grammar check doesn’t wet itself over it.
So, anyway, (and normally I don’t like beginning a sentence with ‘so’, but what the hell!) this week a particular consultant dictated this unfeasibly long letter I was lucky enough to type and she’s one of these who likes to correct after printing instead of correcting online like everyone else. She wrote ‘however’ about a million times and decided to correct me by taking out my semicolons and using full-stops. OK, I thought, I’ll play along, so I did as I was bid, but was I miffed by her corrections? A tad.
The only time I will comply by ‘full-stop. However…’ is if there are like a million words that come before it, so I break it up by the full-stop, but that’s only because I have to think of the poor soul who has to read the letter at the other end (more often than not a patient, dazed by all the jargon to begin with and wondering if the person dictating actually has a life). No one likes to read massive paragraphs not broken up by commas, colons and semicolons, but that’s the rubbish I have to type.
It’s not the rubbish I like to write, though, not if I can help it.
There are many grammatical articles online on this and not all of them agree with one another, so what’s the solution?
Simples: think about your readers and don’t go mad with your ‘howevers’. Just keep your sentences snappy and short!