How to Punctuate with “However”
However are you going to keep this information straight? The usage of punctuation with however may seem confusing; however, the distinctions are straightforward.
However has several distinct uses. In all but one, it is an adverb — a word that modifies a verb. One adverbial use is much more common and syntactically variable than the other: It can appear at any of several points in a sentence to signal that a counterpoint will follow. For example, after the sentence “My point was valid,” the following sentence might appear: “However, its significance was lost in the ensuing argument.”
However can also be introduced after the subject of the sentence: “Its significance, however, was lost in the ensuing argument.” Alternatively, it can be appended to the end of the sentence as a tag: “Its significance was lost in the ensuing argument, however.”
The two statements from the first paragraph could also be combined into one sentence: “My point was valid; however, its significance was lost in the ensuing argument.” (Here, too, however can be placed after the subject in the second independent clause or at the end of it.) Note that the semicolon takes the place of the period because these two statements are so closely related that they need not be segregated into separate sentences, but because however is an interjection, the comma following the word must be retained.
Although one could write, following a sentence such as “He scoffed at my comment,” the statement “My point was valid, however,” a simple comma following however is incorrect if an independent clause follows. That is why “My point was valid, however, its significance was lost in the ensuing argument” is erroneous: However seems to refer to the first independent clause, but it is introducing the second one.
None of the other uses of however, which are relatively rare, requires a comma: The other adverbial uses are as a synonym for “to whatever degree (or extent),” as in “I have been aware of that for however many years,” and as an intensifier equivalent to the expression “how in the world,” as in “However did you know I was going to say that?”
The other use of however is as a conjunction. It can be a synonym for “no matter how,” as in “My point, however you look at it, is valid” or for “in whatever manner or way that,” as in “They will assist us however they can.”
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