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I have heard that starting a sentence with however is wrong. What are the grounds for this view and is it still held by a majority of pedants?

They would suggest changing

However, some people are beginning to doubt this.

to

Some people, however, are …

or

Some people are, however, beginning …

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7 Answers 7

The Grammar Girl has a good article on this topic, basically:

It is fine to use however at the beginning of a sentence; you just need to know when to use a comma.

If it means "to whatever extent", don't use a comma:

However wrong it is, I will say it loud and clearly.

If it means "nevertheless", use a comma:

However, I don't give a damn.

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1  
Nasty ads on that site. –  delete Aug 6 '10 at 1:02
3  
But she knows what she's talking about. –  Pekka 웃 Aug 12 '10 at 23:12
    
Note "however" is just a 3-syllable long version of "but". –  bobobobo Jan 25 '13 at 19:34
    
@bobobobo, no—it’s a three-syllable, stronger version of ‘but’. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 20 '13 at 11:56

I think this advice comes from the (somewhat strange) idea that sentences should have one complete idea. If your sentence begins with the conjunction "however", then it's an extension of the idea in the previous sentence and is therefore not a "complete idea". The same reasoning is behind advice not to begin sentences with "or" and "and".

Of course this advice is silly because sentences and "complete ideas" don't always line up, and there's no reason that a conjunction can't join a sentence with the previous one.

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It bothers me to no end to see sentence fragments beginning with 'And' being published as whole sentences. –  oosterwal Feb 2 '11 at 23:47
    
@oosterwal see my answer here english.stackexchange.com/questions/593/… –  nohat Feb 2 '11 at 23:51
2  
I think this is a question of elegance, rather than correctness. Starting a sentence with "however" works fine - but in every case I've encountered, putting it in the middle adds punch. Take the example from Edward Tanguay's answer, "However, I don't give a damn" and rephrase it to "I do not, however, give a damn." That sounds a lot more interesting to my ears. –  Chris B. Behrens Nov 21 '11 at 19:39

There is no rational, linguistically valid reason for this rule. It's just a convention promulgated by misguided English writing teachers.

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Yes. However, it should be done sparingly.

Here's a pretty good writeup:

http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/starting-a-sentence-with-however.aspx

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Is also a podcast: traffic.libsyn.com/grammar/grammar058-however.mp3 –  Peter Mortensen Aug 13 '10 at 0:22

However you parse the rule, this usage is correct. However, this may not be.

I think both are fine, but they are different cases.

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Yes, but you cannot start a story with it.

I also believe that there should be no more than one 'however' per three sentences.

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5  
That looks like a challenge. "However experienced a police officer is, encountering...." "'However,' he said, 'you still aren't marrying my daughter.'" –  David Thornley Sep 20 '10 at 18:25

It is acceptable to start a sentence with however. However, according to Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, it may only be used at the beginning of a sentence when it means “in whatever way” or “to whatever extent”. When the word is used to mean “nevertheless”, it may not come first in its sentence or clause.

Strunk & White’s Misused Expressions

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3  
Strunk & White’s Elements of Style is generally considered a bad source of advice: chronicle.com/article/50-Years-of-Stupid-Grammar/25497 –  MετάEd Aug 1 '12 at 19:19
    
White in particular was a great writer, which is great if you read his fiction, but a pity if you read Elements of Style. If only he'd followed his own advice, it wouldn't have been as compelling and it wouldn't still be in print. With that passage though, there is a double danger as even some of their less questionable advice may not be current. –  Jon Hanna Jan 22 '13 at 11:53

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