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24 February 2007

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» But, in a larger sense . . . . from Manage Your Writing
Ray Ward, at The (New) Legal Writer, makes a point I'll reinforce: beginning a sentence with a conjunction is OK. Although folklore condemns the practice, no credible source does so. And good writers have long known the power of up-front [Read More]

Comments

Andrew

Should we also use words like "ye," "lo" and "thou," which the Bible also uses? The Bible is an authority on many things, but grammar (as something that changes as part of its nature) is not one of them. Furthermore, there is a difference between "OK" and "good". I can't really remember an example where keeping something as two sentences and starting one with a conjunction is better than making it one sentence, unless it's a bad sentence to begin with. Starting sentences with conjunctions is completely unnecessary, and doesn't add anything of value. If you want to use short, choppy sentences to get a point across, you can do it just as easily (and better, in my opinion) without starting with conjuctions. It's OK to write an entire essay in passive voice, there is NOTHING grammatically "wrong" with it. I think we'd all agree that it's a BAD thing to do, regardless of if it's "wrong" or not.

Disagree

Starting sentences with conjunctions can be very powerful tool of juxtaposition. And it elminates loose sentences and silly words like "furthermore", "moreover", and "however" which, IMHO, can often be too much "trying to sound smart" clutter.

Which one sounds better?

Should we also use words like "ye," "lo" and "thou," which the Bible also uses? The Bible is an authority on many things, but grammar is not one of them.

There is a difference between "OK" and "good". I can't really remember an example where keeping something as two sentences and starting one with a conjunction is better than making it one sentence, unless it's a bad sentence to begin with. And it is completely unnecessary. If you want to use short, choppy sentences to get a point across, you can do it just as easily (and better, in my opinion) without starting with conjuctions. It is OK to write an entire essay in passive voice; there is NOTHING grammatically "wrong" with it. But, I think we can all agree, that it's a BAD thing to do, regardless of whether it's "wrong" or not.


Silly rules are what is wrong with writing. There is nothing about an "And" or a "But" at the beginning of a sentence that makes writing inherently hard to follow. The only remaining justification for the "rule" (which is controverted by many) is that "someone said so." But that just doesn't cut it.

Shannon Forbes

Thank you. I am from the old school and remember my English teacher teling us never to begin a sentence with a conjunction. I am writing a book, and there have been a couple places where I got very daring (so I thought) and started a sentence with "and." I just decided to break the rule because it seemed necessary. Anyway, thank you for letting me know that the old rule, if it ever existed, has gone the way of the dodo and the buttonhook.

Yvonne Perry

when starting a sentence with And or But is a comma needed? For example:
And, she decided to go with me.

Ray Ward

Yvonne: Generally no comma after "And" or "But" at the start of a sentence. Thus: "And she decided to go with me."

Railwriter

Nice appeal to authority, but ineffective. The biblical passage above is grammatically poor, whether from a religious text or not.

Starting sentences with conjunctions is sloppy; transitions connected by conjunctions ought to occur within the sentence, else the whole point of sentence construction is lost.

Ray Ward

Sorry, Railwriter, but some impressive authorities would beg to differ with you. Two that come immediately to mind are H.W. Fowler and Bryan Garner. There's also whoever wrote the U.S. Constitution: that document is loaded with sentences starting with conjunctions.

rbeatty

And I would like to start all my sentences with conjuctions. But I learned not to do so. So you say this is wrong? Or completely outrageous? Yet I do so in defiance. For I will not fall victim to obtuse conventions. Nor insane rants.

rbeatty

And I would like to start all my sentences with conjuctions. But I was taught not to. Yet I do so in defiance. For I will not fall victim to obtuse conventions. Nor succumb to insane rants. So forgive me, those who feel otherwise. Or not.


pgroot

I am under the impression that we were taught not to use conjectures such as "and" or "but" as well as other words such as "because" at the beginning of a sentence so as to provide a sort of sweeping net policy for better writing. Because sentences such as this one are not grammatically correct. Like the notion of coloring within the lines, I think these policies are free to be discarded as the writer becomes able to properly structure their sentences without these safety nets. I don't see any issues, stylistic, grammatical, or otherwise with using a conjunction at the start of a sentence. However, I am no professor, in fact I am only a high school student, so scrutinize my comment and grammar accordingly.

Jeremy Thorn

THE BIBLE WAS TRANSLATED !!!!! POORLY TRANSLATED!!
I'll bet that the original Hebrew had less gramatical errors than the King James version.but Remember it`s a TRANSLATION.

Ray

Actually the Gospel of Luke was originally written in Greek, not Hebrew. But aside from that, where do you get the idea that starting a sentence with a conjunction is a grammatical error? Can you cite some authority for that notion?

EpsilonZero

pgroot, I support you, and I am an English teacher.

The same education system that taught me never to start a sentence with "and" gave me a national test in Year 5 with a reading passage with multiple sentences starting with "And" and then a question about why the author did it. When I wrote "Because he is a bad author, and doesn't know that you can't start a sentence with 'And'", I got called to the principal's office. In retrospect, that might be because my own sentence began with a conjunction...

That was the day I learned that skillfully used start-of-sentence conjunctions should be praised in writing. To the commenter above who claimed that they couldn't think of one instance where such a use of "and" was profitable, I beg to suggest perhaps you have either not read widely enough, or perhaps, have seen this used so effectively that you haven't noticed it?

Beginning a sentence with "and" is largely about: it can exaggerate compoundedness (as it apparently did in the test I mentioned: "He banged his head. And he fell down the stairs. And then he stubbed his toe. And then he broke his finger. It was a terrible day!")

It can also be used to signify afterthought, conjoining it to the preceeding sentence, but through use of a full-stop, highlighting the change of thought. ("So I ate the fish heads. And they weren't too bad, really" suggests a very different tone and delivery to "So I ate the fish heads and they weren't too bad, really."

VippyG

The way I understand it, the "rule" was taught to prevent errors such as the following:

I went to the movies with Susy. And Tom.

The only error in the second sentence is that it lacks an action. However, by not starting a sentence with "and" and instead combining the two sentences, the problem is solved. Easy fix accomplished!

Of course, few adults would make the above mistake anyway, with or without having been taught this "rule." The bottom line is that a sentence needs a subject and an action, and starting the sentence with a conjunction doesn't subtract from this.

Footnote: I found a case when it can be very helpful to start a senetnce with a conjunction. I was recently writing a paper in which it was required to make two points in a single paragraph. I wrote a few sentences about the first point and a few about the second. Reading through it again, I realized that the transition between the two thoughts was unclear. While I'm sure there are other ways to remedy this problem, starting a sentence with "and" was likely the easiest and simplest solution. Here's the paragraph:

Critics of the book say that the author misses the point of communism and unfairly attacks the concept. On the contrary, these critics miss the point of the book and unfairly vilify it. The author gives a knife-sharp message about the damages of socialism and the like, showing just how toxic a concept can be when it crushes the entire human race. And even though the author has a tendency to repeat concepts, these ideas are too important not to repeat.The ideals of this book – the value of man’s ego, the necessity of individualism – are of such monumental significance that to mention them merely once or twice would be neglectful.

Disclaimer: I am not an English teacher, professor, or anything of the like. Don't quote me and don't cite me.

Ray

Well, VippyG, you may not be an English professor, but you have a good ear.

fd

Does anyne know how to start a sentence without using a conjunction then?

Ray

I think you just did, FD.

Charlie

I believe that there is a difference between subordinating conjunctions and coordinating conjunctions. Subordinating conjunctions can introduce adverbial dependent clauses which can come before an independent clause. By definition in grammar books, a coordinating conjunction combines two coordinating independent sentences. I do not care that people start sentences with a coordinating conjunctions, but there must be a purpose in doing so. If rules of grammar become relative, then so do the educational certificates that many people have earned.

3ud

LOL. The KJB is littered with confusing sentences. I'm not an authority on the issue, but the King James Bible is probably the worst bible you could use to make this point. In addition, when did the rules of English become governed by the bible? Hmmm... maybe I need to revise my use of language to biblical standards.

Good sir! If thou uses a conjunction to begin a sentence, I shalt cleft ye in twain!

:)

Titus

So, is it acceptable to start a new paragraph using the word "So" as the first word, in a research paper using APA Format?

Ray

I don’t know what APA Format is. But I can’t imagine any reason—grammatical or stylistic—against starting a sentence with “so.” Whether “so” is used as an adverb or as a conjunction, it may be a sentence’s first word. Bryan Garner agrees. See Garner’s Modern American Usage 733 (Oxford 2003).

wendy

i'm confused is it okay or not cause i do it all the time.

Ray

Of course it’s okay. I’ll take it a step further: no part of speech is disqualified as the first word of a sentence. For instance:

Noun: John kicked the ball.
Verb: Get ready.
Adjective: Dark clouds formed.
Adverb: Merrily we rolled along.
Preposition: Of course it’s okay. (It’s also okay to end a sentence with a preposition, but that’s a topic for another post.
Conjunction: And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night. (Luke 2:8, King James Version)

Nteri

I have always been taught that if you start a sentence with a conjunction, you need to follow it with a comma similar to how one would after "plus," "however," or "nevertheless." I personally believe that conjunctions that start a sentence should not be over used. The definition of a conjunction is that it connects, whether it be connecting words, phrases, or clauses. Putting a conjunction at the start of a sentence makes it less of a connector in my opinion. On the other hand, I can appreciate that one might want their conjunction to stand out more by putting it at the start of a statement, but then, should it not be set off by a comma? I am a middle school teacher, but I have asked several colleagues and professors; they seem to agree.

Phil Cooper

Starting sentences with conjunctions is bad form, if for no other reason that it is illogical in English syntax, as well as the syntax of most human languages. If you were to treat a conjunction as a logical or mathematical operator, it's bad form in those fields as well. Don't Do It -- even if you can find a thousand examples of it in The Bible.

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