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.

Page 62, Line 6

Teresa, aka, The Haunted Wordsmith, challenged us to “open a book — any book — to page 62 (physical or ebook) and copy line 6. Then use it in a short post.”

44B91B58-0610-4FBE-A37A-3F7F8D94541FThe book I chose is The Neon Lawyer by Victor Methos. I read this book, a free Kindle download, about three years ago and, to be honest, I barely remember it. But following Teresa’s instructions, I opened the book to page 62 and copied line six below:

“We just wanted to talk to you about a case you did the prep work on.”

So here’s my short post. Ready?

Barry was nervous when he was told to report to the senior partner’s office at 1:00 sharp. It was rarely a good sign to be what was commonly referred to around the law firm as being “called on the carpet.” But Barry knew he had to repress his anxiety and deal with whatever consequences faced him.

At precisely 1:00, Barry approached the senior partner’s office. He was surprised to see two other senior lawyers, along with the senior partner, awaiting him. He knocked on the glass door and the senior partner motioned for Barry to enter the office. Pointing to a chair opposite his desk, the senior partner said, “Have a seat, Barry.”

Doing as he was told, Barry sat down in the chair, and despite his efforts to maintain his composure, he could feel the beads of perspiration forming on his forehead.

“Thank you for your promptness, Barry,” the senior partner said. “We just wanted to talk to you about a case you did the prep work on.”

“Are you referring to the McDaniels case?” Barry asked. “Let me explain….”

“No need to explain,” one of the other lawyers said. “Your work speaks for itself.”

“Yes,” the other lawyer said. “The entire McDaniels case hinged on your prep work.”

Barry felt like he was about to pass out. “Is there a ‘but’ coming?” he asked.

“There is, indeed, Barry,” the senior partner said. 9181FAA8-21FC-4AF5-88C8-A3A24819262CHe reached his hand across his large desk. “But for your prep work, we might have lost the case.”

Did you see how I also snuck my one-word prompt, “repress,” into this post?

Time To Write — Throwing a Few Curves

img_1788“But…” Henry said, looking at the meeting agenda that the ushers handed out as he and his girlfriend, Jessie, entered the city council chamber.

“But what?” Jessie asked.

“I was supposed to be the third speaker on the agenda,” Henry said. “But my name is missing from the list of speakers. It’s not there at all.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure,” Henry insisted, pointing to the piece of paper that showed who was scheduled to speak before the city council that night.

“And you’re sure you were supposed to speak at tonight’s meeting?” Jessie asked.

“Yes,” Henry answered, unable to hide his annoyance. When he spotted the council chairman walking up to the stage, Henry jumped up and ran over to the chairman. Jessie witnessed them having what seemed to be a heated discussion before Henry returned to his seat.

“So?” Jessie asked.

“Get you’re coat, we’re leaving,” Henry said. “That bastard threw me quite a curve tonight by taking my topic off the agenda without so much as a text message to let me know.”

“I’m so sorry, babe,” Jessie said sympathetically, “but if we go back to my place now, I think I can put throwing a few curves your way on my agenda.

“And you,” Henry said, a broad grin lighting up his face, “have all the right curves in all the right places.”

Written for Rachel Poli’s Time To Write prompt using the three words, agenda, curve, and speaker,” and for Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt, where we are asked to start our post with any three-letter word. I used “but.”