One Writer’s Journey

September 17, 2018

Grammar Gremlins: You Can’t Start a Sentence with a Conjunction . . . or Can You?

Grammar gremlin?

Yesterday one of my high school buddies messaged me.  “So I’m asking an expert. Is it ok to begin a sentence with ‘And’ …..I’m proof reading technicians remarks.”

Expert?  At bending the rules of grammar?  Yeah, that would be me.  I start sentences with conjunctions (And, Or, But) all the time.  But I got the feeling that she wanted the gospel answer.  So I looked it up via a Google search.  This is definitely something that people have opinions on. My search turned up 214,000,000 results.

214,000,000.

I quick glance told me that I had no clue who the vast majority of these bloggers or other experts might be, but I did see one that I recognized, the Merriam-Webster dictionary.  Their site says that not only can you start a sentence with AND it has been done for quite some time.

“Firstly, has it ever been wrong to begin a sentence with and or but? No, it has not. We have been breaking this rule all the way from the 9th century Old English Chronicle through the current day. Many translations of the Bible are filled with sentence-initial ands and buts, and they even may be found in some of our more beloved—and prescriptive—usage guides. The 1959 edition of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style begins two sentences in a row with these prohibited words, and does so with nary a trace of self-consciousness.

‘But since writing is communication, clarity can only be a virtue. And although there is no substitute for merit in writing, clarity comes closest to being one.
—William Strunk Jr. & E. B. White, The Elements of Style, 1959′”

I start sentences with ‘and’ on a regular basis.  I also use ‘but’ and sometimes ‘or.’  Why then were we taught not to do it?

Although it can be an effective way to start a sentence, I suspect a lot of us tend to use it as a transition.  Imagine a whole string of sentences linked by conjunctions.  It would easily stretch into the far distance.

Does that mean it is wrong to do occasionally?  Absolutely not. But it probably isn’t something you should do for every other sentence.

–SueBE

 

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