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Suppose you were presenting two different conditions. Which of the following is preferred? Does it matter?

If the flower is red, it may be a rose. On the other hand, if it is blue, it may be a violet.


If the flower is red, it may be a rose. If, on the other hand, it is blue, it may be a violet.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Both are perfectly grammatical and widely used.

Google returns 51 million results for "on the other hand, if" and 94 million results for "if, on the other hand", suggesting that on the Web, the latter is preferred by a factor of approximately 2.

However, Google Books paints a different picture, with 3 million results for "on the other hand, if", and 2 million results for "if, on the other hand".

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So perhaps that suggests that "on the other hand, if" is the more formal construction, while "if, on the other hand" is more informal (assuming that books will favor formalism, and news articles, blogs, discussion forums, etc will favor informalism)? – pkaeding Sep 10 '10 at 21:50
We could certainly interpret it that way, but the big picture is that you can safely use either. At the end of the day, it is a matter of your personal preference, and whatever that is, nobody can argue that you are "wrong". – RegDwigнt Sep 10 '10 at 22:06
Okay, thanks. In the end, I chose to use "if, on the other hand", as that is my personal preference :) – pkaeding Sep 10 '10 at 22:53

First one, because the second one is too wordy and awkwardly phrased. Both sentences should say "might" rather than "may," because they're about condition, not permission.

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Thanks. The may/might thing was not really the point of my question, but it does bring up another question. Some quick Googling leads me to believe that both are appropriate here, the difference being in how likely the condition is to be satisfied. Perhaps I should start a new question on the differences between 'may' and 'might'... – pkaeding Sep 10 '10 at 22:52
Actually, it is already a question here: english.stackexchange.com/questions/7/… – pkaeding Sep 10 '10 at 22:56

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