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How to Use “However” in a Sentence

I see lots of mistakes in sentences with however. In fact I’m always tempted to send a congratulatory email when I spot a correct “however” sentence in a police report – it’s that unusual.

Take a look at this paragraph from a recent report:

Wichita Police say recent posts on social media reporting alleged kidnapping attempts are not valid, however confusion over the social media posts led to confrontation that happened around 7 p.m. on Thursday, August 4 at Towne East Mall, located in the 7700 block of east Kellogg.  22-year-old woman recognized a 37-year-old woman who had been accused on Facebook of kidnapping. Police urged the public to check with law enforcement before sharing and acting on Facebook accounts of alleged crimes.

We’re going to focus on this sentence:

Wichita Police say recent posts on social media reporting alleged kidnapping attempts are not valid, however confusion over the social media posts led to confrontation that happened around 7 p.m. on Thursday, August 4 at Towne East Mall, located in the 7700 block of east Kellogg.

That’s a long sentence, and it’s crammed with information – too much information. “One idea per sentence” is a good rule for any writer, and it’s especially appropriate for police reports. Give up the idea of writing like Charles Dickens! Short, crisp, and clear sentences are the order of the day.

But what interests me most is the word however. Here’s a simple principle for you: Use a period and a capital letter. (NEVER use a comma.)

Wichita Police say recent posts on social media reporting alleged kidnapping attempts are not valid. However confusion over the social media posts led to confrontation that happened around 7 p.m. on Thursday, August 4 at Towne East Mall, located in the 7700 block of east Kellogg.  CORRECT

If you really want to write like a pro, put a comma after however:

However, confusion over the social media posts led to confrontation that happened around 7 p.m. on Thursday, August 4 at Towne East Mall, located in the 7700 block of east Kellogg.  CORRECT

Let me make one more suggestion. I’ve rarely use however in my own writing. It’s a stuffy word. I find that sentences with but are more natural and easier to read:

But confusion over the social media posts led to confrontation that happened around 7 p.m. on Thursday, August 4 at Towne East Mall, located in the 7700 block of east Kellogg.  BETTER

But can you start a sentence with but? Yes. Despite what you may have been told, there is not and never has been a rule against starting a sentence with but. It’s an urban myth. If you look at the books, magazines, and newspapers in your home, you’ll find that they all feature sentences starting with but. You can read more about but (you might be surprised!) at this link.

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