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I wrote this sentence which is too long with "but"

To illustrate this, suppose we want to eliminate the navigation bar from the page sidebar. We may create a rule in which the link density is employed to distinguish such a part, but when this rule is applied to the page, all such elements are removed regardless of their locations in the page, even if they are within the main content (e.g. Table of Contents)

can I write it with "however"? I just feel but in this sentence makes more direct contrast.

Are there cases in which we'd better use "but" even in formal sentences?

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    Yes, you can. However, you should normally start a new sentence before however, and follow it with a comma. Also note that since such a part is obviously intimately bound to something mentioned in even earlier text, if you actually like the idea of using long sentences it might make more sense to attach those first 17 words to the preceding sentence. – FumbleFingers Aug 25 '15 at 12:58
  • @FumbleFingers lol, 17 words! – Ahmad Aug 25 '15 at 13:09
  • Erm... Even with your edit now giving the preceding sentence, I still don't understand what this part is, or what specific characteristic makes it such a part. If in fact you mean parts such as navigation bars (and assuming distinguish = unambiguously identify), I'm not sure the phrasing is particularly idiomatic. – FumbleFingers Aug 25 '15 at 15:09
  • @FumbleFingers part is the navigation bar and having many links within make it such a part. is it conveyed? – Ahmad Aug 25 '15 at 15:12
  • The fact that you mention "link density" doesn't mean it makes sense to immediately reference some particular (unspecified) density indirectly through such a. – FumbleFingers Aug 25 '15 at 15:14
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But and however, though they both imply a contrast between what goes before and what comes after, focus the relationship very differently.

  • but itself takes a low emphasis: it is unstressed in speech, and in writing accommodates low-disjunction pointing—it may follow a mere comma or in some circumstances no point at all. Even in high-disjunction contexts it throws the emphasis on the following proposition rather than on the contrast between the two propositions. But is typically used to introduce a clause which qualifies, mitigates or dismisses the previous clause.

  • however at the beginning of a clause takes high emphasis. In speech it takes a primary stress, which is usually not matched until considerably later in the following clause. In writing it must be preceded by high-disjunction pointing—a semicolon, dash or full stop. It emphasizes the contrast between the two propositions it lies between, and typically signals that your discourse is going in a new direction.

    This emphasis is somewhat neutralized when however appears as a parenthetical at some point after the beginning of the clause. It usually appears as a 'drop-off' after the clause's first primary stress and marks the stressed element as the source or occasion of contrast.

In your sentence, then, the use of but or however will depend on how you regard the contrast between the propositions to either side. Since we don't know what point you are illustrating, or how the contrast within your example bears on it, it's impossible to say which you should use.

ADDED: Your comment adds that "when the rule is applied, unexpectedly, the user see many other elements are also erased from the page." This situation, where your key point is the unexpected difference between what was intended and what actually happened, seems to me to be tailor-made for however; and I'd rewrite a little to make the contrast even clearer:

To illustrate this, suppose we want to eliminate the navigation bar from the page sidebar. We create a rule in which the link density is employed to distinguish that piece. That will certainly remove the navigation bar; however, when the rule is applied to the entire page all such elements will be removed, regardless of location on the page—even elements (for example, a Table of Contents) within the main content.

The pieces in boldface are those which receive primary stress in speech.

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  • Thank you much for your complete answer. As you see in the paragraph I am describing a scenario in which user does something (defines a rule) and expects something to happen (to remove a certain part of the page) but when the rule is applied, unexpectedly, the user see many other elements are also erased from the page. Now, how can I express such a contrast? However or but?! – Ahmad Aug 25 '15 at 15:05
  • @Ahmad -- see my addition – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 25 '15 at 15:49
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In technical and scientific writing, prefer 'however' over 'but'. Their meaning is the same, and yet the reading seems smoother with the former, while the latter creates a harder point.

The use of 'but' is more suited for idioms like "all but one".

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  • I agree with Fingers, avoid such long sentences in technical and scientific writing. – Victor Bazarov Aug 25 '15 at 13:15
  • Can I use "however" like this: "We may create a rule in which the link density is employed to distinguish such a part. When this rule is applied to the page, however, all such elements are removed regardless of their locations in the page, even if they are within the main content (e.g. Table of Contents)." – Ahmad Aug 25 '15 at 13:34
  • Certainly, yes. In that case 'however' is a lead-in word placed after the introductory subordinate clause. – Victor Bazarov Aug 25 '15 at 13:37

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