Exploding the myth of “however”
October 6, 2010
A friend of mine is fond of telling his son to avoid the use of absolutes: ‘You guys NEVER let me go anywhere’, ‘We ALWAYS have peas with dinner’. It is advice which people offering ‘rules’ for language usage might like to bear in mind. I am ALWAYS amazed, for example, when teachers and tertiary students tell me that they were taught to NEVER start a sentence with however.
Like many so-called ‘rules’ of usage, this is based more in prejudice than actual current convention. The well-respected Style manual for authors, editors and printers (John Wiley and Sons Australia, ISBN 0-7016-3648-3) lists the following as acceptable uses of however (when it means but, yet or nevertheless):
However, I will let you know.
I’m not sure of the outcome; however, I will let you know as soon as this is clear.
They also recommend that the following usage is ‘not widely accepted, and should therefore be avoided in standard or formal publications’ (p75):
I’m not sure of the outcomes, however I will let you know as soon as this is clear.
Not doubt someone, somewhere will disagree with this advice, but I am siding with John Wiley and Sons.