Starting a sentence with And or But

Some grammar rules (and embarrassing mistakes!) transcend the uniqueness of different regions and style guides. This new International Grammar section by ultimately identifies those rules thus providing a simple, flexible rule-set, respecting the differences between regions and style guides. You can feel free to ask general questions about spelling and grammar. You can also provide example sentences for other members to proofread and inform you of any grammar mistakes.
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Starting a sentence with And or But

Post by stoppoppingtheP » 21 Aug 2016, 04:47

I have always been taught that starting a sentence with And or But is totally forbidden. However, recently I read some articles on the internet on a few grammar websites saying that this is actually allowed in the correct contexts. I even noticed that some of my academic articles that I am reading (about Linguistics) have sentences that start with these words.

I would really like to know your opinion on this subject. There are times that I really want to use these words but I can't, and I have to struggle to find an alternative or change my whole sentence around.

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Post by DennisK » 21 Aug 2016, 10:27

I was taught the same rule, and a number of times, I was criticized for braking it. If we write things like instructional, or legal documents, I suppose adherence to this grammatical style is important. But, (However,) if we need to portray a language as it is spoken, rules can get in the way.
Actually, this subject can turn into a philosophical discussion as there are people who really get their back-hairs up whenever they perceive a broken rule. In the legal or political realm, this question is argued all the way up into the Supreme Court: What takes precedence: the letter of the law, or the law's intent? :lire4:

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Post by MJ Chantel » 26 Aug 2016, 17:08

As long as you are not doing technical, legal or business writing, you can break almost any grammar rule. A good rule of thumb, though, is to not break a rule for the sake of being lazy or simply because, but to further the story.

And you can grammatical begin a sentence with and or but, provided it is a complete thought. But I would avoid doing so in technical, legal or business writing.

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Post by AA1495 » 10 Sep 2016, 22:00

I've always felt the need to begin sentences with those. I've always been told that it was grammatically wrong though, atleast for formal writing. I guess that still holds

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Post by graceluvjo333 » 11 Sep 2016, 05:17

I taught my students that starting a sentence with AND and BUT is wrong. I read some suspense novels wherein the author used AND to start a sentence. I hoped I'm not teaching the wrong things to my students.

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Post by Diane Rinella » 29 Sep 2016, 11:29

I was also taught never to do this; however, it is not a hard and fast rule. (Just like the way I wrote a semicolon before "however" instead of breaking it into another sentence is the general rule, but you don't need to stick to it.) As a writer, I try to avoid starting a sentence with and; however, there are times when it makes sense. If a character is ranting, and thus using and a lot, sentences can get LONG! If you break up the diatribe by starting a sentence with and, then you make your point without driving the reader mad with a long sentence.

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Post by karolinka » 19 Oct 2016, 14:43

I would not use AND and BUT in any official writing, like business, legal, etc. I think it's ok to use in a dialogue - ie. when the character is speaking. But in general, no, I would not start a sentence with either word.
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Post by Sarah_Khan » 20 Oct 2016, 14:56

AA1495 wrote:I've always felt the need to begin sentences with those. I've always been told that it was grammatically wrong though, atleast for formal writing. I guess that still holds
I agree with you, although I've been taught to never begin a sentence with And or But, there are times where I feel it is necessary (but not in things like legal documents). :P

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Post by Polecat1 » 21 Oct 2016, 15:02

Certainly when writing dialogue "But'' or "And" could begin a sentence, right or wrong. It seems a normal part of conversation.

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Post by Lolly_Reader » 21 Oct 2016, 15:21

But what if you just like the feel of the word flow as you break the rules? And laugh in the face of danger?

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Post by miloark » 30 Oct 2016, 11:23

Enjoying this discussion because I have wondered the same thing myself! I try hard to avoid those words when beginning a sentence.

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Post by demetria » 03 Nov 2016, 20:37

And doesn't Diane Rinella's post show how writing styles have changed over the decades. In my father's day it was normal to write in very much longer sentences than is the case today. I not long ago came across some pages of memories that my father wrote in the 1980s, and the sentences just went on and on and on. It was not peculiar to him, but normal for his generation to write like that. There were plenty of colons and semi-colons used where today we would use separate sentences.

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Post by Swara Sangeet » 13 Nov 2016, 21:04

I remember learning that starting a sentence with 'and' was wrong, but I don't remember anything about 'but'. Yet it's true that even I have seen such usage in several books. Do they have a poetical license or has the rule been relaxed?

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Post by DennisK » 13 Nov 2016, 23:58

I would like to suggest that the purpose of the written form of a verbal language is to represent that language's spoken form. Perhaps people didn't verbally start their sentences with 'and', or 'but' during the 17 or 1800's, but they certainly do today. Suppose I jumped into a time machine and traveled back during the Elizabethan time. Would I be able to have a conversation without employing charades? I wonder how the English language sounded back then. What if they all spoke like Shakespeare wrote? :wink: Just kidding … I read that they weren't that poetic, but I read that their sentences were quite long winded. Language evolves. Over time, it changes and our written form must change with it – along with its rules. :eusa-think:

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Post by DATo » 14 Nov 2016, 05:45

The issue concerning beginning a sentence with and comes up in the movie Finding Forrester in a discussion between Forrester (Sean Connery), who is a reclusive novelist, and his protege Rob Brown (Jamal Wallace); however, I do not remember how the conversation went, but I do remember that it was stated in the conversation that under certain circumstances this was allowable.

If anyone has this movie or plans on picking it up soon please post what you find out in this thread.

EDIT: It occurs to me that Poe does this in the third stanza of The Raven.

And in the poem it seems to work *LOL*.
“I just got out of the hospital. I was in a speed reading accident. I hit a book mark and flew across the room.”
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