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Using ‘however’ and ‘therefore’ in your essay

‘However’ and ‘therefore’ are useful, powerful words. Use them sparingly and accurately.

1 However

‘However’ indicates a strong contrast or contradiction:

‘Smith focuses on the role of climate change in the decline of wildlife; however, Khan emphasises habitat destruction.’

Students sometimes over-use ‘however’ and under-use other, subtler transition phrases, such as ‘while’, whereas’, ‘by contrast’, ‘on the other hand’ or simply ‘but’:

‘Smith focuses on the role of climate change in the decline of wildlife numbers, whereas Khan prioritises habitat destruction.’

2 Therefore

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‘Therefore’ indicates the direct logical conclusion or consequence of what went immediately before.

‘Deer are browsing more intensively in the absence of predators. Saplings, therefore, are not maturing into trees.’

Again, it can be tempting to over-use ‘therefore’. You can usually replace it with alternatives such as ‘consequently’, ‘accordingly’ and ‘as a result’.

It is important, though, that the logic is in the words, not just in the writer’s head:

‘Hospitals are being closed. Therefore, it is important to increase the health budget.’

The author believes it is vital to increase health spending to avoid hospital closures, but increased spending is not the consequence of hospitals being closed.

3 Alternative phrasing

The words ‘however’ and ‘therefore’ pack your thoughts into one word. But instead of just telling your reader that there’s a contrast or a consequence, why not illustrate what kind of contrast or consequence you see?

‘Although Smith focuses on the role of climate change in the decline of wildlife numbers, Khan prioritises habitat destruction, while acknowledging the importance of climatic conditions.’

James McConnachie
16 March 2022

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