Conjunction Junction

5F2D15C6-E9F3-4F05-A089-7609F647F04CEarlier today I wrote a post in which I commented on a blogger who confused the words “than” and “then.” I got some interesting feedback on my post, including one commenter who pointed out that “starting a sentence with ‘but’ (a preposition) is generally frowned upon.”

I admit that I do start a lot of my sentence in my posts with “but” and “and,” both of which are conjunctions. And not to be a stickler, but “but” is very seldom a preposition. When it is used as a preposition, “but” means the same as “except”: “Everyone ate frog legs but Jim. But “but” usually functions as a coordinating conjunction.

Okay, back to the topic at hand. Is the use of a conjunction really frowned upon? Well, I suppose it depends on who you believe. R.W. Burchfield, lexicographer, scholar, and writer, who also edit the Oxford English Dictionary, writes:

“On starting sentences with a conjunction, there is a persistent belief that it is improper to begin a sentence with ‘and,’ but this prohibition has been cheerfully ignored by standard authors from Anglo-Saxon times onwards. An initial ‘and’ is a useful aid to writers as the narrative continues. The same is true with the conjunction ‘but.’ A sentence beginning with ‘and’ or ‘but’ will tend to draw attention to itself and its transitional function.”

Even the venerable Chicago Manual of Style writes:

“There is a widespread belief — one with no historical or grammatical foundation — that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as ‘and,’ ‘but,’ or ‘so’. In fact, a substantial percentage of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions. It has been so for centuries, and even the most conservative grammarians have followed this practice.”

So is the use of a conjunction to start a sentence an erosion of rules of usage? Well, I’m not an expert, but I think that the “rule” about not starting a sentence with “but” or “and” doesn’t represent contemporary thinking on English grammar.

But hey, if you, as a writer or a blogger, don’t want to start your sentences with a conjunction — or a preposition — that’s your right. Whatever floats you boat.

33 thoughts on “Conjunction Junction

  1. wideeyedwanderingspoonie March 14, 2019 / 10:50 am

    I was taught (back in the stone age) not to start a sentence with And or But. However, I have happily ignored that rule for years. It has gone the way of the dinosaur and the “R rule” aka “it is not proper to wear velvet in any month that contains an R in the name” (april, september, october, … you get the idea). 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Nova March 14, 2019 / 10:52 am

    Prepositions usually adds “phrases (incomplete thoughts)” to sentences.
    “ But hey, if you, as a writer or a blogger, don’t want to start your sentences with a conjunction — or a preposition — that’s your right. “
    Despite the “ you” , “don’t want to…”, “that’s you’re right.” ,
    It’s a phrase.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sadje March 14, 2019 / 10:52 am

    The grammar lessons are long forgotten. I do write how I think, and what feels right.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. newepicauthor March 14, 2019 / 10:52 am

    I actually ate frog legs at a party one time, BUT the host told me that they were chicken legs. I would probably try them again, but it is not nice being deceived the way I was.

    Liked by 2 people

      • newepicauthor March 14, 2019 / 3:05 pm

        You did say that, “Everyone ate frog legs but Jim.” I think it is possible that frogs and chicken may have had a common ancestor, which might be a snake, or a lizard, or a fish.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Marleen March 14, 2019 / 3:24 pm

          I appreciate the preposition lesson (from Fandango). And I agree with you (Jim) that it’s wrong for a host to misrepresent frog as chicken at a party.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. thejenniferstone March 14, 2019 / 10:53 am

    I understand the but/and debacle but there are exceptions to every rule. If it feels right, why not?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. BlackSheep March 14, 2019 / 10:55 am

    I start my sentences this way all the time. And I think it is okay. If a word like “selfie” can jump into the dictionary after a few years, then something that has been practiced by great authors for centuries should be acceptable. If the practice had no practical purpose or if it changed the meaning of what was being said, that would be a different story.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The Diary of a Country Bumpkin March 14, 2019 / 11:06 am

    Everybody starts sentences with “So” and carries on to punctuate them with “Like.” I am fairly certain this is not correct which is a reason to stop but the main reason to “like” stop is “like” it just sounds “like” awful, you know what I mean “like?”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Angel Jameson March 14, 2019 / 11:11 am

    Hi, Fandango! This is timely. Earlier this week, I wrote a letter for a university award nomination and I started one of my final sentences with And. As a Writing major, I wondered if that would be frowned upon. In the end, I kept it. As R.W. Burchfield noted, “A sentence beginning with ‘and’ or ‘but’ will tend to draw attention to itself and its transitional function.” That is exactly why I used it to begin with. I needed that particular sentence, as a continuance of the narrative, to stand out. Ultimately, I considered myself a rebel, but it sounds like I am not even breaking the rules. Bummer. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango March 14, 2019 / 2:00 pm

      “Ultimately, I considered myself a rebel, but it sounds like I am not even breaking the rules. Bummer.” Ha! Sorry to burst your bubble! 😏

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Suze March 14, 2019 / 12:19 pm

    I done got tot the rite way to rite, but i jest ignores it all…

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Paula Light March 14, 2019 / 12:33 pm

    It’s fine to break the rules if you know the rules. And the rules do change over time.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. crushedcaramel March 14, 2019 / 3:06 pm

    Sometimes after one of my posts has published…I go over it again and could cringe with all the typos and grammar mistakes. It’s not good…can but try!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Marleen March 14, 2019 / 3:09 pm

    I have a feeling we were taught not to start sentences with “and” and “but” mostly because children would tend to almost always put those words up front, especially “and.”+

    Not sure what it says about me,* but I find that I can often remove an “and” or two at the beginning of a sentence or two before I post. Hello, Angel Jameson. Fun post.

    * Actually, I know what it says is that I’m not as careful about the details of expectations when blogging as I am when I do something official; I’m enjoying.

    + Were probably not supposed to end a sentence with “and” either😏

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marleen March 14, 2019 / 4:09 pm

      We’re probably not supposed to end… with “and” either. LOL

      Liked by 1 person

      • Marleen March 14, 2019 / 5:22 pm

        The “and” before the “+” is neither a conjunction or a preposition… as used… except secondarily (in which case it stands for both, or either).

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Mikayla Hart March 14, 2019 / 4:27 pm

    I often think about this when writing, but I also remember that my writing style is my voice. As long as one doesn’t sound ignorant, I think this is perfectly fine to begin and end a sentence however one wants. BUT not in school papers….Just in case….

    Liked by 1 person

  14. drtanya@saltedcaramel March 14, 2019 / 4:44 pm

    I enjoyed this post and the discussion that followed.

    Let me add my two cents :

    I agree that blaring and glaring errors of grammar and sentence construction should be avoided.
    Blogging, however, is not a very formal form of writing so words and phrases that may not strictly comply with some rules of grammar yet are common usage should not be frowned upon.

    Having said that, there are two things that put me off
    1. Excessive typos or spelling mistakes.
    2. Profanity /swear words.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. ESP March 15, 2019 / 2:40 am

    There are many grammar rules that are OK to break, and some do it on purpose, for emphasis on the conjunction changes the tone, some might do it to attract the attention of the reader to a sentence which would have otherwise been treated like others if it following the conformist grammar. Read LOTR.
    One can adhere to or break the rules if one does it gracefully, grace trumps grammar any day.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. aguycalledbloke March 15, 2019 / 7:01 am

    An excellent and thought provoking post Fandango. I remember like many from school how we were taught to do this and to do that, but over time, as is the case with the passage of time , our foundations are oft dropped and we adopt our own style.

    I remember reading in an article before starting my blog, that the author was making reference to the readerships about very specifically ‘adopting a style’ which sits best and suits your speaking style more. He futher went on to explain, that if you wanted to make you, your writing and your blog stand out, then to not be shy or reticent about making the speech of your writing appear differently to how you otherwise might address your writing style.

    So, to make deliberate errors in both word and phrase, and grammatical errs were accepted with regards the likes of blogging, as this would make more impact – but to remember that this was your chosen and deliberate style – an example if l may on Suze’s humour here …”I done got tot the rite way to rite, but i jest ignores it all…”

    That if this was the way you specifically chose to set your style for your blog speech, then all formats would always have to follow so that continuence was always offered to your reacder.

    Every time l start a new paragraph with an ‘and’ or a ‘but’, l still travel back to my school days and think , mm, this isn’t right – but if the hat fits, then l choose to wear it my way, my style and ultimately, my blog.

    Once more an excellent read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango March 15, 2019 / 8:49 am

      Thank you, Rory. I do tend to write like I speak. It may not follow all of the proper grammatical rules, but it works for me. And that is all I have to say about the topic! 😏

      Liked by 1 person

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