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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Re: Starting a sentence with And or But

Post by Viviana Pitino » 21 Nov 2016, 16:25

I know it's wrong. I know.
Imagine the horror when my editor told me I had an addiction: starting sentences with BUT or AND.
I ran a word search and paled. She was so right.
Still I kept some of them because sometimes, they just help you and make sense.


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Post by e-tasana-williams » 22 Nov 2016, 13:56

Isn't it ok to begin a sentence with BUT if the BUT is used as IF IT WERE NOT? For example, "But for my love for the boys, the dogs would be out on the street!". I understand that most of this discussion does not refer to this use of BUT, but I thought I'd throw that in there! :lol:
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Post by Ashton » 04 Dec 2016, 05:37

I believe the general opinion is that it is wrong, however there are people who are not bothered if they see it.

I think your decision of use should be based on whether you share your story or not. If yes then I would suggest writing as “formally” as possible, because you never hear someone complaining that the grammar was too formal.

I noticed that conjunctions are used to express something less emphatically or to denote surprise, by turning a phrase into a question.
People say this is the worst book ever. And who are we to disagree?
She said no. But why not?

This might just be a preference but this is weak writing to me. I feel that these could be written better without the conjunction.

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Post by Satori » 26 Dec 2016, 06:22

DennisK wrote: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:
You were criticized for breaking this rule, and you respond by looking for reasons yet to continue to break it, or to justify breaking it?

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Post by DennisK » 26 Dec 2016, 11:11

[/quote]You were criticized for breaking this rule, and you respond by looking for reasons yet to continue to break it, or to justify breaking it?[/quote]
Welcome to the forum, Satori!
Yes, I would continue to brake this rule. A rule must be based in logic.

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Post by LauraMc29 » 26 Dec 2016, 18:14

I teach Composition I and II at the college level. I allow my students to start a sentence with But or And as long as it's not technical, business, legal writing. I will, however, mark off points if they don't use it correctly. If they use it correctly, then I have no problem with it.

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Post by katiesquilts » 26 Dec 2016, 19:49

Swara Sangeet wrote: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?
I'm the exact opposite! I never heard anything about using "and," but "but" can be replaced by words such as "however, on the other hand," etc. so using it is lazy, as my teachers said.

In my opinion, "and" is fine as long as you're using it in dialogue or with a set phrase, so to speak. For example: "And on that note," or, "And so we..."

I mean come on...There are books that have been written with no capital letters, complete disregard for punctuation, the list goes on and on. No one is going to throw a fit if you take a little creative liberty. :wink2:

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Post by DennisK » 27 Dec 2016, 09:03

There is a rule out there, somewhere, that states we should not begin a sentence with a conjunction. According to this rule, words such as but, and, for, or, nor, yet, however, so .. etc, should only be used to connect words, phrases or sentences - they should not be used to begin sentences. It must not be a hard and fast rule as I remember seeing a sentence written by William Faulkner (a Nobel Prize laureate ) that began with the word, 'but'. Still, I always feel compelled to proceed the word, 'so' with a semicolon – not a period. I don't know where I picked that up, but I now learn that I can use the semicolon only if I am not using a coordinating conjunction. So now, I feel compelled to proceed the word 'so' with a period!

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Post by Guppy » 30 Dec 2016, 00:55

I agree on the use of and or but as sentence starters in dialogue. Though I would also use it when discussing that dialogue or speaking style of a character in a review, as structuring a review sentence the same gives an example of that character's speech.
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Post by AliceofX » 13 Mar 2017, 01:20

I guess that depends how formal whatever it is you're writing is. When it comes to dialogue, I'd say about 80% of people start their sentences with and, but, so and other no-no words, so if what you're going for is an accurate portrait of an average individual it would almost be a requirement to start your sentences that way. And if you want to be uber realistic you'd also have to insert a ton of pauses and filler words, so there's a point where realism must collide with readability.

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Post by Yolanda Denise » 14 Mar 2017, 17:47

I was also taught that it's wrong to begin a sentence with And or But. It depends on the context. For something that is highly informal, it's okay to start sentences this way. Otherwise, I would make an effort to rephrase what I'm writing.

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Post by K-McD » 16 Mar 2017, 19:01

I think it's only okay under certain circumstances. As mentioned above, people do start sentences with "and" or "but" in speech, so it's fine to represent that in dialogue or thoughts as long as it isn't used too often. I think sentences that include it as part of a phrase, like "But still" or "And yet" are also more acceptable than just beginning it with the word by itself, because it's more awkward to put those in the middle of a sentence than to begin a new one with them.
Other than that, I would need a very good reason why that sentence had to be separate from the previous sentence. For example, "I wanted to buy a soda. But they only had Coca-Cola products." Unless that's meant to be a dramatic realization in a book where Coca-Cola is taking over the world, then that could very easily be one sentence. For another example, I would accept a sentence beginning with "but" if there's a paragraph talking about something hypothetical, then beginning the next with a statement saying that it could never happen. I think the fact that it's a shorter, blunter word gives "but" more impact than "however".

Overall, I think it's okay to use them if it's in a character's voice or if it can't easily be merged into the previous sentence, but they should only be used sparingly.

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Post by Dh_ » 16 Mar 2017, 20:17

I've always believed that it is wrong to start a sentence with and or but as well. However, I've seen many cases where authors start their sentences like this. I think it's okay to do this but the least amount of times possible.
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Post by Lincoln » 23 Mar 2017, 08:03

I know you aren't supposed to do this, but sometimes in context it actually adds something to a story. It certainly can be used in dialogue.
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Post by CaitlynLynch » 21 Apr 2017, 17:55

I'd say it is very much dependent on context and genre, as are a lot of writing 'rules'. If you're writing a YA novel, are they really going to nitpick your breaking certain grammatical conventions? Are your audience even going to enjoy or relate to your writing if you rigidly follow every grammatical rule?
Literary fiction is about the only genre I can think of where you should keep the rule book close at hand. For everything else, consider your audience and they style they would like to read.

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