comma vs semicolon before 'however' [adverb]: a magic trick, however,

6kwar

Member
Hebrew
Hi all.

I have a problem with the punctuation of the world "However" (or any of its kind).

In a grammar book named "The Penguin Guide to Punctuation" it shows when to use a comma and when a semi colon.

Note also that most other connecting words cannot be preceded by a joining comma. For example, the connecting words however, therefore, hence, consequently, nevertheless and thus cannot be used after a joining comma. Hence the following examples are also wrong:
* Saturn was long thought to be the only ringed planet, however, this is now known not to be the case.
* Two members of the expedition were too ill to continue, nevertheless the others decided to press on.


* Liverpool are five points behind the leaders, therefore they must win both their remaining games.

I love to read NYT, because I can test what I know and see if I got it right.

Here is a quote from NYT

It’s a magic trick, however, that most major pharmaceutical companies are also trying. “The question is how do you remain successful and sustain your operations if you’re investing less and less in R&D?” said Kenneth I. Kaitin, a professor and director of Tufts University’s Center for the Study of Drug Development. “The answer to that is to try to find a new way and a more efficient mechanism for discovering and developing drugs.”

Why is it fine to use a comma before the world however in this example?

Thank you
 
Last edited:
  • natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Mod note: It might be useful to have a look at the useful links listed by panjandrum. There are some punctuation guides included.
     

    AquisM

    Senior Member
    English/Cantonese
    Actually, the two situations you have listed are not the same. The one from NYT is not a case of however following a joining comma, as the comma does not connect two independent clauses together. Rather, it is only the embedding of a however that would otherwise have been at the front. I find what Penguin has pubblished to be right, and the example from NYT to be correct as well.
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    Aquis is totally right. The Penguin guide is telling you to be careful not to use "however" as a coordinating conjunction. It's an accident that can easily happen, since "however" is an adverb that looks a lot like a conjunction. They say that it's a "joining word," but want to point out that when you're joining things with it you're dealing with separate independent clauses. Thus you have to use something other than a comma "before" "however" so as to avoid a comma splice. Let's look more closely:

    Saturn was long thought to be the only ringed planet, this is now known not to be the case. WRONG: comma splice
    Saturn was long thought to be the only ringed planet, however, this is now known not to be the case. WRONG: "However" doesn't prevent the sentence from having a comma splice
    Saturn was long thought to be the only ringed planet; however, this is now known not to be the case. CORRECT: Semicolon works to separate independent clauses
    Saturn was long thought to be the only ringed planet. However, this is now known not to be the case CORRECT: Period and new sentence works to separate independent clauses

    At this point, the "however" can move around in the sentence:

    Saturn was long thought to be the only ringed planet; however, this is now known not to be the case.
    Saturn was long thought to be the only ringed planet; this, however, is now known not to be the case.
    Saturn was long thought to be the only ringed planet; this is now known not to be the case, however.

    ALL CORRECT: Note that when "however" moves around, it's set off from the entire sentence with commas. This is because it's considered as an aside in that sentence. In all cases, however, the Penguin guide is also correct to point out that, somewhere before the "however," there's either a period or a semicolon.
     
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