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I have seen, on the website of an illustrious university, the use of 'however' which I always thought to be wrong. It is used twice in the same way, which makes me think it isn't a typo.

Changing the context a little, the sentence is:

You are not required to take exams for this subject, however coursework is continually assessed.

The rule for the punctuation as I know it is:

[...]. However, [...] (We didn't study. However, we passed.)
[...]; however, [...] (We didn't study; however, we passed.)
[...], however, verb [....] (We didn't study. We, however, passed)
[...], however. (We didn't study. We passed, however.)

The only time this isn't true is when 'however' means 'no matter how' (We will not pass however hard we study.)

My question is this: Is the website wrong, or has this punctuation usage now moved on enough that it is now seen as somewhat pedantic to worry about it if the meaning is clear?

There are numerous answers on the site about the standard rule, and this is not exactly my question. I would like to know if anyone is aware of a shift in modern usage that would mean publishers, editors etc. nowadays accept the removal of the superfluous punctuation if the meaning remains clear.

marked as duplicate by Robusto, Mitch, TimLymington, Marv Mills, FumbleFingers Sep 16 '15 at 11:47

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  • 1
    I think I would go with the semi-colon. However, my guess is that most people would read the sentence correctly, even with the comma. – chasly from UK Sep 15 '15 at 10:09
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    I had to reread the sentence: I misunderstood it at first reading. The misleading punctuation led me to assume that this was meant to be however in the sense ‘no matter how’: “You are not required to take exams for this subject, regardless of how coursework is continually assessed” (which could be a possible sentence, but seems less likely). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 15 '15 at 10:19
  • I think it depends on how the word however is functioning in the sentence. I have seen option two used often, as well as option one. I encounter this often in my own writing and am unsure. About time I learned. I'll check some resources and see what turns up. – michael_timofeev Sep 15 '15 at 11:03

You are right and the website of this illustrious university is in the dark about the proper punctuation before however. In the sense of "but", the word however is not a conjunction but an adverb, which means that you are looking at two independent sentences connected with a mere comma. This constitutes a comma splice, which is perhaps sometimes defensible, but not here. My hypothesis is that people simply confuse however with but, a true conjunction, and use them interchangeably, which often doesn't work. To write their communications, universities regrettably (often) hire PR agencies, which do not reflect the institution's soul or erudition.

  • So the sentence should read "You are not...subject. However, coursework..."? Or it could have a semicolon because the two clauses are related, as in "You are not...subject; however, coursework..."? – michael_timofeev Sep 16 '15 at 1:16
  • @michael_timofeev: Either option would be fine, for the reason you suggest. A comma just isn't a strong enough mark of punctuation, but a semicolon or full stop is. – Cerberus Sep 16 '15 at 4:53

Yeah, this is wrong. You were right. 'However' needs to follow these comma rules, or it is hard to understand.

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