It’s important for a writer to listen to criticism and seriously consider whether a suggestion would improve her style and/or plot. Even if that criticism comes from a reader who gave your book one star and declared that she’d like to throw your book against the wall. I’m the first to admit—I’m no grammar guru. As such, I’m always looking to improve my grammar, so I looked into the innocent little word ‘however’, which according to said reviewer I slaughtered.
Here’s two examples of ‘however’ in my writing:
Another empty corridor greeted him, however, with this passage there was a large, ornate door waiting at the end.
Over three thousand years ago, when civilization stretched to the far corners of the realm, the tiny isle had not been worthy of a name. However, time has a way of changing even the most inconspicuous of places.
Here’s what Strunk and White say on the subject: “Avoid starting a sentence with however when the meaning is nevertheless. The word usually serves better when not in the first position.”
Using this rule, I should have rewritten Example #2 as:
Over three thousand years ago, when civilization stretched to the far corners of the realm, the tiny isle had not been worthy of a name. Time, however, has a way of changing even the most inconspicuous of places.
OK, no problem I think. I can totally do that. Great… BUT (another grammar land mine), what does Grammar Girl say? (I really like Grammar Girl. She explains grammar to simpletons like me in an easy to understand way.)
“I know many of you revere Strunk and White, but this is one instance in which nearly all modern style guides have decided that the classic advice is unreasonable. The modern style guides don’t call starting a sentence with however an error. “
For complete article: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/starting-a-sentence-with-however-right-or-wrong
Oh, ok, so it’s OK to use however at the beginning of sentence. After all, I noticed my favorite bestselling authors use ‘however’ in this manner. I can totally do that. But wait…what’s this about using a semicolon before ‘however’ to connect two sentences? So now I’m thinking that I should have rewritten example #1 like this:
Another empty corridor greeted him; however, with this passage there was a large, ornate door waiting at the end.
Great, problem solved. I think I have it now. However, there is just one issue: I can’t recall any book that I’ve read that has ever actually put a semicolon before ‘however’ to connect two sentences. I know I’ve seen them surrounded by commas, but not a semicolon. The semicolon looks weird to me, and I think it would probably look odd to my readers too.
I recently had a conversation with another author when I noticed ‘eying’ in their book. I thought it was ‘eyeing’ misspelled. But I looked it up, and no, you CAN use ‘eying’. However, I figured that if I thought it looked wrong, then others would too. Personally it looks like Eeyore is dying to me. The author told me that her editor was insisting on spelling it ‘eying’ even though it looked weird to her too.
I’ve come to the conclusion that grammar is like a game of football where each referee is given a different handbook. But each referee, depending on their mood, can make a random judgement call and wave their red flags at the players. To further confuse things, half the players were told that there are four downs and the other half were told that there are three.
It would be really nice if English Grammar could make up its mind. Now I’m just plain confused.
Meanwhile, while readers are threatening to throw a book across the room for misusing their version of ‘however’— ‘selfie’ and ‘twerking’ were added to the Oxford Dictionary, and the sensible Oxford Comma is in jeopardy of being removed from the game.