Period (Full Stop), Semicolon, or Comma before "However"?
The Quick AnswerWriters often ask whether they should use a period (full stop), a semicolon, or a comma before a word like "however"?
Words or phrases like "however," "as a result," "consequently" (called conjunctive adverbs) are usually capitalized and start new sentences. However, if you would like a smoother transition between your two sentences, you can use a semicolon before your conjunctive adverb.
- I asked Tom. However, I'm not convinced he knows.
- I asked Tom; however, I'm not convinced he knows.
- I asked Tom, however, I'm not convinced he knows.
Punctuation before Words Like "However"The word "however" is often used as a bridge between two sentences. For example:
- I love seafood. However, I can't eat shellfish.
Read more about conjunctive adverbs.
Do Not Use a Comma before "However"When "however" is used as a transitional phrase, there is always a comma after it but never before.
- I missed the early plane, however, I still made the meeting.
Use a Period (Full Stop) or a Semicolon before "However"A transitional phrase like "however" will usually start a new sentence, but if you would like a smoother transition than that afforded by a period, you can use a semicolon before it to merge the new sentence with the previous one.
Here are some examples (transitional phrases shaded):
- I missed the early plane. However, I still made the meeting. (Most of the time, your transitional phrase should start a new sentence.)
- I missed the early plane; however, I still made the meeting. (Occasionally, you can use a semicolon to create a smoother transition between your "sentences." NB: They are now independent clauses not sentences.)
- Everyone knows he is guilty. Of course, it will never be proved.
- Everyone knows he is guilty; of course, it will never be proved.
- Sarah's guest was turned away by the doorman. As a result, she left before the presentations.
- Sarah's guest was turned away by the doorman; as a result, she left before the presentations.
- Business is booming. For example, Siemens has made 10 orders since 4 o'clock.
- Business is booming; for example, Siemens has made 10 orders since 4 o'clock.
- The paper is stuck in the lift. Consequently, we cannot finish the printing.
- The paper is stuck in the lift; consequently, we cannot finish the printing.
- She does not loathe chess, on the contrary, she quite likes it. (The term "on the contrary" is a transitional phrase. You cannot merge two sentences into one with a comma. You must either start a new sentence or use a semicolon. This is known as a run-on error.)
- My security guards are not trained in fire-fighting, therefore, we called the fire service.
- It is extremely foggy, nevertheless, the game will be played.
Start a New Sentence Nine Times out of TenTransitional phrases (or conjunctive adverbs) are common. Most of the time, a transitional phrase will start a new sentence. However, you can use a semicolon if you wish a smoother transition. You should not do this too often.
Read more about using semicolons.
The Main Culprit is "However"The run-on error is most commonly seen with the word "however."
- I am leaving now, however, I will be back on Wednesday to collect my wages.
Be Careful with "So"When "so" means "therefore," it is a transitional phrase and should be followed by a comma. Like all transitional phrases, it should be preceded with a period or a semicolon. For example:
- We are not in a position to fund the changes. So, the current system will remain until at least April when it will be reviewed again.