Monday, March 04, 2024
For men, women, and teens

Alternatives to "however"

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Written by Vera C. Last updated on .

Woman's hands holding a cup of tea at a desk with notepad and computer

It's easy to over-use the word "however" while you are writing, particularly in non-fiction or essay writing. Here are some alternatives to "however".

Be aware that depending on the context of your writing, some of these alternatives will be more (or less) appropriate than others. It helps to read out your finished sentence aloud to get a feel for whether your selected alternative flows smoothly.

  • on the other hand
  • nonetheless
  • be aware that (context-sensitive; explained at the end of this article)
  • of course (in the context "there is no substitute for practicing a language with a native speaker; of course if one is not available then a language learning course or program is the best alternative")
  • that said
  • alternatively
  • by contrast
  • on the contrary
  • all the same
  • that being said
  • having said that
  • on the other side of the coin
  • nevertheless

Don't be afraid of using "however" or its alternatives

The list of alternatives to "however" that are listed above might seem frightening at first glance! But don't let that put you off using any of these words or the original "however". In your essay or other piece of writing, by even having the word "however" in there at all, it indicates that the big picture of your writing seeks to do one or more of the following:

  1. construct an argument
  2. portray evidence for a particular viewpoint (for example literary analysis)
  3. provide nuanced interpretation of experimental results (for example in the discussion of a scientific paper)
  4. a balanced explanation of two or more opposing viewpoints (for example in historical analysis)
  5. some other form of explanation or analysis (for example a report of findings for a client)

In any of the situations listed above, the appropriate use of the word "however" (or any other alternative you chose) is doing something mission-critical. The word "however" in your paper or essay is constructing a reasoned piece of work showing that you are aware of more than one standpoint or more than one possibility. It shows you know how to think and are able to apply more than one interpretation to facts. This is very important in higher education and in the workplace.

Do not let yourself be confused or daunted by the dilemma of finding other ways to say "however". If you get stuck at this point, then for now use any of these as a placeholder or simply leave in "however", and later when you proofread you can refine your word choice. It is far more important to have your argument or analysis clearly and carefully constructed than to agonize over the word choice of an alternative to "however".

Tips for those who are less confident with the English language

Although many of the substitutes for "however" can be used interchangeably, I'd like to point out a few exceptions or areas where you should proceed with caution.

The phrase "of course" is much more context-aware than most of the other alternatives listed above, which is why an example is listed alongside. Therefore unless you're completely confident that a switch to "of course" will be appropriate in the specific sentence you're writing, you may like to avoid it for now and use one of the other options.

"All the same" and "on the other side of the coin" are very slightly less formal than most of the other alternatives. For writing where clarity is more important than formality, this might be perfect (for example, writing a paper or essay with a layperson audience in mind). But for a formal analysis (for example a report for a client or an academic paper), you may prefer to avoid using these two options.

"Be aware that" is slightly less of an acknowledgment of an opposing or contrasting viewpoint than the other options. If you were using your original "however" as part of a reasoned argument or to indicate a contrasting viewpoint, you should use one of the other options instead of "be aware that".

Here is an example of correct use of the phrase "be aware that" to replace "however"

It's important to eat a healthy diet which includes fruits and vegetables in order to have sufficient vitamins. Be aware that using vitamin supplements above the recommended dose can be harmful.

The above usage of "be aware that" is correct. This is because in the setting above, "be aware that" is used more as a method to alert the reader to a safety issue as opposed to indicating an opposing thread of reasoning. Neither standpoint in the sentence above is mutually exclusive, which is a good test for appropriate usage of the phrase. Next we'll take a look at how not to use "be aware that".

Here is an example of poor usage of "be aware that". So don't do this:

The political party in power at the time felt it was more important to lower taxes and government spending. Be aware that the opposition had diametrically opposed priorities and desired to raise taxes and government spending.

This example shows poor usage of the phrase "be aware that". This is because it is used here to join two mutually exclusive viewpoints. Instead it should be used as an alert to the reader, preferably where the two viewpoints are not mutually exclusive. Any of the other alternatives to "however" would have been a better choice here.

The nuances I have identified in this section are good rules of thumb, but there are certain to be exceptions which are not practical to list on a one-by-one basis, so if you feel confident with a particular use, go ahead.

Final thoughts for success in writing

Keep your eye on the argument you are constructing in your paper. Don't get too hung up on finding different ways to say "however". The list of alternatives to "however" shown here will be appropriate for most situations, but we have also indicated where context-awareness is critical.

If you're looking to improve your essay writing, you might also like to take a look at our article on alternatives to "for example" - this phrase is also likely to crop up more than once in your writing, and it would be good to have alternatives for that also.

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