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However: Alpha or Omega?

When I was in my upper 30s, working with the Palm Beach Post, I came across a piece written by the copy chief that had the conjunction however in the middle of a sentence, with a comma on either side. I still remember how startled I was. I’d never encountered this punctuation error before, and couldn’t believe that the man in charge of ensuring the correctness of grammar, spelling, punctuation – all of the mechanics of writing – would write like that. Couldn’t he see that he was throwing two sentences together without a period or semicolon separating them? It wasn’t a compound sentence, either; there was no conjunction separating the two elements of the sentence.

Happens a lot

Since then, I’ve encountered the error many times. It’s hard to tell whether however is the alpha or the omega of the sentence.

In a newspaper promotional piece for a cosmetic therapy procedure called Ultratherapy, a doctor wrote, “The regenerative process is initiated at the first treatment, however, results may take up to six months …” At first blush, the reader doesn’t know if however goes with the first of these two run-together sentences, or the second. It could be read: “The regenerative process is initiated at the first treatment, however. Results may take up to six months …” Or one might read it as: “The regenerative process is initiated at the first treatment. However, results may take up to six months …” After studying the jumbled-together sentences, one can conclude that the second version probably is the intended meaning. But why make the reader figure this out? A simple period, followed by a capital letter to begin a new sentence, makes the meaning abundantly clear. A semicolon after the first sentence also works.

Et tu, Forbes?

starting with however

Here’s another example. It’s from Forbes.com, a national magazine, which makes the error less excusable (or, simply, inexcusable): “The sector with the most new jobs in December was business services with 52,000 jobs added, however, this is below the industry’s average of 61,000 additions.” Puh-leeze. Couldn’t the writer see that there were two sentences here? The first was, “The sector with the most new jobs in December was business services with 52,000 jobs added.” The second was, “However, this is below the industry’s average of 61,000 additions.” This strikes me as so obvious that I am dumbfounded at the writer’s blindness to it. Or, the two sentences could have been divided by a semicolon, because they are related: “The sector with the most new jobs in December was business services with 52,000 jobs added; however, this is below the industry’s average of 61,000 additions.” In this case, a semicolon, but not a period.


However begins sentence

Such aberrations appear frequently. Take this one (because I sure as heck don’t want it): “Port Miami is easily accessible by car or taxi, however, most cruise lines offer shuttle service directly from Miami International Airport.” By now, you can see what’s wrong with this sentence – or rather, these two sentences. The first should end with “… taxi.” The next sentence begins, “However, …”


However2

A nutritionist wrote: “When a group of individuals replaced animal fats with omega-6-rich safflower oil, their cholesterol levels decreased, however, the rates of death from cardiovascular disease and coronary artery disease increased significantly as compared to those consuming the animal fats.” This is an effective debunking of vegetarians’ argument against eating animal products. It would have been even more effective if the punctuation hadn’t made the statement difficult to process. Again, this should be two sentences: “When a group of individuals replaced animal fats with omega-6-rich safflower oil, their cholesterol levels decreased. However, the rates of death from cardiovascular disease and coronary artery disease increased significantly as compared to those consuming the animal fats.”

Blame the textbooks?

A lot of estimable writers make this error in punctuation. One wonders if, somewhere along the route of their elementary education, their teachers were using textbooks devised by linguists deficient in the English language.

Such a simple concept – yet so important to clear communication.

#comma #however #periodcompoundsentence #semicolon

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