However, MWDEU also observes that “nearly everybody admits to having been taught at some past time that the practice was wrong.” So where did this idea come from? In that case, maybe it’s a good idea to teach kids to use a full noun, like Joe, before you start referring to that noun with a pronoun, like “he.”. Now there’s not as much of a pause, so the surprise is lessened. Another reason for believing that you cannot begin sentences with a coordinating conjunction is the idea that this turns a sentence into a fragment. Let’s face it, though: However doesn’t have the same feel as but. I’ve even heard people say you can’t start a sentence with “it.” Imagine how this rule would cripple your writing if it were true. And, but, and or are the three most common members of a group of words known as coordinating conjunctions. ", Capital letters and the points of the compass, Using capital letters with proper and common nouns. However, I will be back on Wednesday to collect my wages. They think it’s ungrammatical. Every one I’ve heard so far is bunk. Neal Whitman investigates why there seems to be such a difference between what teachers say and what style guides say. I am leaving on Tuesday. Download Grammarly's app to help with eliminating grammar errors and finding the right words. Or it might be disconcerting to your audience. The best way to avoid a number at the start of a sentence is to reword the sentence. However, he forgot to include his application fee. ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — Baby Nancy, the first Black baby doll to have an Afro and other authentic features, was ... A tour of Sullivan County for all classic car, trucks and daily drivers is scheduled for Oct. 17. This isn’t the only grammar prohibition asserting you can’t start a sentence with a certain word or type of word. By making the clause about turning in the application a single sentence, and beginning the next sentence with but, we have the combination of a sentence-final pause and a sudden afterthought delivered in a short burst. Another possibility is to begin the second sentence with a transition word or phrase with a similar meaning, such as however, like this: Squiggly turned in his application on time. It’s just easier to stay vigilant while wearing the editor hat. It has been so for centuries, and even the most conservative grammarians have followed this practice. On the other hand, I switched jobs because I wasn’t happy is a complete sentence, with because joining two clauses: I switched jobs and I wasn’t happy. You couldn’t say “It is true” or “It is Tuesday” or “It was a dark and stormy night.” I suspect this one started with the idea that “It” is sometimes used to delay the main clause of a sentence, making the sentence wordier: “It is true that Jen is here” is a wordy way of saying “Jen is here.” But that doesn’t mean it’s ungrammatical. — June Casagrande is the author of “The Joy of Syntax: A Simple Guide to All the Grammar You Know You Should Know.” She can be reached at It’s true that you can easily fall into a habit of beginning sentences with coordinating conjunctions. But there’s nothing wrong with that, and there’s no rule against it. For example, listen to the following two sentences: Squiggly turned in his application on time. But he forgot to include his application fee. At 4 o'clock, he stood up and said the following: ", The guides always gave the same advice: ", It's hard to disagree with Frank Zappa, who said: ". Copyright © 2020 Macmillan Holdings, LLC. Cannibals don't eat clowns, they taste funny. For example, you can say, “Because I wasn’t happy, I switched jobs,” with because coming before the first of the two clauses. So, no. Conjunctions are traditionally divided into three kinds: coordinating, correlative, and subordinating. Many people have been taught that it's wrong to start a sentence with a conjunction, but nearly all major style guides say doing so is fine. Anyone who tells you that this or that word can’t begin a sentence, be skeptical. Now suppose we joined the two clauses with a comma: Squiggly turned in his application on time, but he forgot to include his application fee. If that’s what you want, fine. Our motto: Live every day to the fullest – in moderation. The word “look” has become another annoying GO TO word as a first word in a sentence when replying to a statement or question, especially by political figures. This seems like a simple ruling, but there are some quirks. So as with the other conjunctions, the rule applies to “so” at the start of a sentence. But that’s not what the teacher said, so the lesson a child would walk away with, carrying it with him for his lifetime, is that it’s bad to start a sentence with one of those pronouns. Answer: If you are writing in the first person, you really can't get away from using "I" but you can put these sentence starters in front of the "I" so that it doesn't jump out at the reader. Beginning a sentence with the imperative form of a verb may feel inappropriate, as it essentially involves telling the reader what to do. Cannibals don't eat clowns — they taste funny. In The Story of English in 100 Words, David Crystal writes: During the 19th century, some schoolteachers took against the practice of beginning a sentence with a word like but or and, presumably because they noticed the way young children overused them in their writing. Like they are going to school you . The short answer is yes, and just about all modern grammar books and style guides agree! However, in some cases an imperative can further engage readers, enabling them to take a more active role in understanding your essay. Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” which won the prize for fiction, has on its first page a sentence starting with “he.” On page two, four sentences start with “he.” On page three, seven sentences start with “he.”, Another Pulitzer winner, Colson Whitehead’s “The Nickel Boys,” has its first sentence-commencing “he” on page one of chapter one, with lots more on subsequent pages. It’s only that last kind that will turn a clause into a fragment. Good writing usually aims to omit needless words. In this world there are only two tragedies: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. However, he can only kick the ball with his left foot. Not true. Usually, folks who condemn “and” at the head of a sentence don’t just think it’s inefficient. The question about whether it’s grammatical to begin a sentence with and, but, or or is actually the question of whether it’s grammatical to begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. Today's breaking news and more in your inbox. This isn’t the only grammar prohibition asserting you can’t start a sentence with a certain word or type of word. In addition to these four, there are a few less-versatile conjunctions that can only join clauses: for, nor, and so. They think you can’t handle the freedom of using conjunctions! In fact, coordinating and correlative conjunctions are different enough from subordinating conjunctions that they should probably not all be called conjunctions, but that’s a topic for another episode. If that’s what you want, fine, but if you really want the pause that comes from ending a sentence, what do you do? On the other hand, it’s nonsense to say, “But Squiggly forgot to include his application fee. But don’t overdo it. If you listened to episode 366, you may remember that the word slash has been evolving into a coordinating conjunction, too, but that’s still far from entering the list of coordinating conjunctions in Standard English. Starting a sentence with a number written in figures is an unpopular style, and most writers try to avoid it. Today’s topic is whether it’s OK to begin a sentence with and, but, or or. [But pauses don’t always equal commas!] As a writer, I start lots of sentences with “and.” As an editor, however, I tend to chop those “ands” out.

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