Posted by: Jack Henry | July 19, 2012

Editor’s Corner: However

Dear Editrix,

Here’s a question that always has me wondering. Hopefully the answer is not too complicated or I won’t remember it.

Is there a rule about when you use a semicolon before the word however vs. just ending the sentence and starting a new sentence with However, and any other proper way of using however? Enquiring minds want to know.


Enquiring Minds

Dear Enquiring Mind,

There’s never a simple or easy answer with English. 🙂

Here’s the “why” and the “when” of the semicolon used with however, borrowed in part from the Purdue OWL (

However is an independent marker word. An independent marker word is used at the beginning of an independent clause.

These words can always begin a sentence that can stand alone. When the second independent clause in a sentence has an independent marker word, a semicolon is needed before the independent marker word.

Jim studied in the Sweet Shop for his chemistry quiz; however, it was hard to concentrate because of the noise.

Some common independent markers are: also, consequently, furthermore, however, moreover, nevertheless, and therefore.

The “where” to place however in a sentence is less formulaic. Placement depends on the sentence flow and where you want the emphasis to be. Some say that putting however at the end of a sentence is inelegant; putting it at the beginning is considered informal.

As an editor, my issue with it is that many people use it too often. It is sometimes used as a buckle to combine two independent clauses, which is not a problem in itself. The problem is that these clauses are often gigantic and unclear, and adding a fancy word in between only makes them longer, not better.

I’ve included some sentences to give you an idea of the flow and flavor as they’re changed by the placement of the word. (The middle sentence does not require a semicolon because it is not two independent clauses):

  • However, the runt of the litter became an alpha male.
  • The runt of the litter, however, became an alpha male.
  • The runt of the litter became an alpha male, however.

So, that’s the short answer! For (a lot) more on however see the article below.


Warm regards,


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