Grammar Tip – However and Punctuation

BizWritingTip reader: “I am confused about the punctuation with the word ‘however.’ I know that I must always place a comma after it. But when do I use a comma before it and when do I use a period?”

BizWritingTip response: Most people do not know how to punctuate the word “however.” If you understand this point, you will be the grammar guru of your office. The problem occurs because sometimes the word is used as an interrupting word within a sentence and, at other times, it is used to connect two sentences.

When you are using it as an interrupting word within a sentence — use commas on both sides.

Examples (correct)
Computers, however, break down. (There is only one sentence.)
The problem, however, needs to be dealt with at a board level (one sentence).

When you are using “however” to connect two sentences — place a period or a semicolon in front and a comma after.

Examples (correct)
Computers break down; however, you can call the help desk (two sentences).
Computers break down. However, you can call the help desk (two sentences).
I read the report; however, it did not answer all my questions (two sentences).
I read the report. However, it did not answer all my questions (two sentences).

It is up to you whether you use a period or a semicolon. However, some people find semicolons difficult to see on an electronic document.

And, yes, instead of using “however” as an interrupting word in the middle of the sentence, you could begin your sentence with it. It all depends on what you want to emphasize.

Examples
However, computers break down.
However, the problem needs to be dealt with at a board level.

 

 

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