Remember, back in school, when your teacher taught you never to start a sentence with a conjunction (and, but, or)?
You’ll be pleased to know that, while it’s true that this is something you should avoid, it’s no longer a mandatory hard-and-fast rule. The important thing is that you not do it all the time. If you use “and” or “but” too often to start your sentences, you lessen your effect … not to mention looking sloppy.
Did you see the movie Finding Forrester, with Sean Connery and Rob Brown? (I absolutely love that movie–for the bits about writing, the music, the great acting, and the inspiring story. In my opinion, at least, like Mary Poppins, it was practically perfect in every way.) Let’s let them banter this explanation this for me:
- Forrester: Paragraph three starts with a conjunction, “and.” You should never start a sentence with a conjunction.
- Jamal: Sure you can.
- Forrester: No, it’s a firm rule.
- Jamal: No, it was a firm rule. Sometimes using a conjunction at the start of a sentence makes it stand out. And that may be what the writer’s trying to do.
- Forrester: And what is the risk?
- Jamal: Doing it too much. It’s a distraction. And it could give your piece a run-on feeling. But for the most part, the rule on using “and” or “but” at the start of a sentence is pretty shaky. Even though it’s still taught by too many professors. Some of the best writers have ignored that rule for years, including you.