With Conjunctions, We Begin Sentences

It’s an old rule that we shouldn’t begin sentences with a coordinating conjunction. People often break this rule by starting sentences with andbut, and so. The fact is that this rule is not a rule at all. It’s simply a long-standing (and incorrect) belief.

Origin of the Belief

Linguistic expert, David Crystal, tells us that the rule began in the 19th century. A few teachers tired of their students’ overuse of sentences beginning with conjunctions. Instead of teaching students moderation, the teachers forbade the practice. And there you have it. This teaching spread through generations and became a common belief.

Correct Usage

Opinions about starting sentences with conjunctions differ. Some maintain it’s a grammatical sin. Others say it’s okay when used in informal writing. Some say we should liberate ourselves from strict non-rules and use conjunctions to start as many sentences as we like.

The experts at Merriam-Webster tell us it’s acceptable to use conjunctions at the beginning of sentences. They also say that it has never been wrong to use and or but to begin a sentence.

According to the Chicago Manual of Style, this belief has, “no historical or grammatical foundation,” and that many sentences found in great writing begin with conjunctions.

The truth is that a conjunction at the head of a sentence can have power. It can create emphasis necessary to get certain points across. On the other hand, these can be overused. Those schoolteachers had that right. In all writing, sentence structure should vary. Putting the same emphasis on every sentence takes away its power.


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Dave Child

Dave is the founder of Readable.io, and has been building websites since the early 90s. He's one of those fortunate people who gets to do what he loves for a living.



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