There is something about this fellow Stapleton I don’t like. However, his charming step-sister has invited us to dine with them at their house, across the moor.Bryan Garner’s Garner’s Modern English Usage (2016) on however :
It seems everyone has heard that sentences should not begin with this word — not, that is, when a contrast is intended. But doing so isn’t a grammatical error; it’s merely a stylistic lapse, the word But or Yet ordinarily being much preferable. . . . The reason is that However — three syllables followed by a comma — is a ponderous way of introducing a contrast, and it leads to unemphatic sentences.Garner cites varied authorities on the wisdom of not leading with however . Better to begin with but or place however later in a sentence. A beautiful explanation from Sheridan Baker: “But is for the quick turn; the inlaid however for the more elegant sweep.” In a recent tweet Garner says that a sentence starting with however
shows something useful: you’re reading someone of only middling skill. It’s a shortcut litmus test. Truly.Middling skill: that seems to describe Watson, or at least the Watson who appears in this film. The stuffiness of however suits him. Place the word later in the sentence and the difference is slight:
There is something about this fellow Stapleton I don’t like. His charming step-sister, however, has invited us to dine with them at their house, across the moor.And because an inlaid however adds emphasis to whatever precedes it, Watson’s sentence may now carry an unintended implication: I don't like Stapleton, but his step-sister, wow. I will go to dinner because she will be there.
Change however to but and the difference is sharp:
There is something about this fellow Stapleton I don’t like. But his charming step-sister has invited us to dine with them at their house, across the moor.And now Watson’s meaning is once again clear: I don’t like this man, but duty and all that. I must go.
Dropping however at the start of sentences (and after semicolons) was, for me, a big step away from the ponderous habits of academic prose. Been there, did that. Done.
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[As Garner points out, however at the start of a sentence is fine when it means “in whatever way” or “to whatever extent.”]