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Starting Sentences With Conjunctions

At some point in the last decade there was a quiet revolution and starting sentences with conjunctions became an accepted practice. For those of you who haven’t cracked a grammar book in some years, conjunctions are those little words like “and” and “but” that link phrases.

I suspect the movement was met with little resistance but there are still probably some dissidents who will accuse us of “dumbing down the language.”

When it comes to writing, I am not an elitist. To communicate well, you should write to be easily understood by your audience. If that means breaking your 51-word sentence into two sentences, one of which starts with “and”, then I am behind you 100%! It also saves you from having to think up little phrases like “in addition” and “however” that are technically acceptable but weigh writing down.

I encourage you to use this newfound freedom wisely. Don’t start every sentence with a conjunction. But, don’t be burdened by guilt if you find that you start a sentence or two that way. If you hear your 7th grade English teacher chiding you in your head, free yourself from your inner child and talk back like you’ve always wanted to.

I’d like to hear your opinions on this. If you think this is a slippery slope and conjunctions are a sign of linguistic anarchy to come, let me know. If on the other hand, you agree with me and know of other writing revolutions in progress, let me in.
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3 comments:

  1. First of all, you know I can get pretty hardcore about going old-school and uber-proper with writing. But one of the oldest of old-school writing rules is that every other writing rule is meant to be broken by those who know why they're breaking it.

    If one were to start a sentence with a conjunction, I believe its proper to do so without a comma after said conjunction (your example near the end of this post uses a comma after "but").

    For the sake of clarification, we should point out for those learning from this post that there are two ways to start sentences with conjunctions. One's improper but acceptable (and I think that's what you're writing about), and the other is perfectly correct, proper and acceptable.

    Method 1: Using a conjunction to start a phrase that isn't actually a sentence but it written and punctuated as if it were:

    "But there's more to the story."
    "And then he jumped in the lake."
    "Or you could just stay here."

    Those aren't sentences, so starting them with conjunctions is the least of your issues.

    Method 2: Using a conjunction as the first word of a compound sentence composed of a dependent clause (a sentence fragment) and an independent clause (more commonly known as a "complete sentence").

    "And still, he was the dumbest kid in class."
    "But beyond that, he's OK."
    "Or if that's too much, you could leave one here."

    Umm -- that's the longest, dorkiest comment I've ever left on a blog. And that's not a bad thing!

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  3. Thanks, Mike!

    I know it was a hard comment to write since it could tarnish your image, but those of us who don't want to hit the grammar books really appreciate the additional explanation.

    And, thanks for letting me know about the problems with my posts repeating text. I think I have that resolved.

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