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But Should You Do It?

June 13, 2018

There are many hotly debated topics in the literary world. And one of my favorites to argue about is whether to start a sentence with a conjunction. While most people would tell you that grammarians abhor sentences beginning with And or But, the Chicago Manual of Style would tell us that often 10% or more of sentences in first-rate writing begin with a coordinating conjunction. These include:

 

For

And

Nor

But

Or

Yet

So

 

There is absolutely no reason to think you are wrong when you start a sentence with one of these words. But a part of your brain insists that it isn’t correct. Stop beating yourself up over something that is completely acceptable! Nor should you take pains to rewrite your sentences to avoid this non-blunder.

 

Run-on sentences and difficult to read paragraphs result when writers try to avoid using And or But at the beginning of a sentence. If it feels right, just do it! How this false information spread so far is still unknown. Style manuals as far back as the 1950s explicitly state that the practice of beginning a sentence with a conjunction is perfectly acceptable. And many of the sentences in their style guide do exactly that.

 

In fact, pick up the New York Times, a play from Shakespeare, a novel by Dickens, and you’ll see these sentences everywhere. Forget what you’ve been told. Because starting a sentence with a conjunction is absolutely correct. And don’t you forget it!

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