Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

And God saw that it was good

with 11 comments

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Can you start sentences with ‘And’? Yes. And you can also start sentences with ‘But’.

But not too often. And not indiscriminately.

Just because

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11 Responses

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  1. How about after a semi? Some say that’s wrong but I say they miss the full-stop-like effect of a semi. Plus you can def use “and” to conjoin the final entry on a list, so why not generally? (Ex: milk; eggs; and cheese.)

    Michael Farrell

    03/03/2010 at 4:27 pm

    • I did not know that some believe it is wrong to write ‘and’ after a semicolon. I’ve just been looking in a few different reference books and cannot find any ‘rule’ that says so. Indeed, in the Oxford Manual of Style, the explanation of how to use the semicolon includes this example (sorry about the sexist language, which I know you won’t like):

      Truth ennobles man; and learning adorns him.

      And, as you mention, ‘and’ is used after a semicolon when writing lists.


      03/03/2010 at 4:46 pm

      • That would read so much better as: “Truth ennobles persons. Therefore, learning adorns such persons.”

        Michael Farrell

        03/03/2010 at 7:54 pm

  2. But surely you jest.

    Maggie Manning

    03/03/2010 at 8:20 pm

  3. When not to start a sentence with ‘but’ (and a cliché), from Guy Keleny in the Independent‘s Errors and Omissions column:

    Here is the first paragraph of a news story published on Monday: “He shot to fame by taking unusual objects – notably dead animals such as horses and cows – encasing them in glass and displaying them in galleries as art. But when Damien Hirst discovered that his own diary, containing intimate declarations of love, was going to appear as an exhibit in an east London art show, he had no hesitation in contacting the police.”

    What is the word “but” doing at the start of the second sentence? There is no contradiction between exhibiting dead animals in art galleries and wanting to protect the privacy of your personal life. News stories love the drama of a contradiction. If we were talking about an artist like Tracey Emin, whose art specialises in personal revelations, there might be one. But in Hirst’s case there just isn’t. Also, notice the dreadful cliché “shot to fame”. Take it out and shoot it.


    08/11/2010 at 4:58 am

    • I think there’s also a stylistic rule against beginning a sentence with “also” or “plus.” I break it all the time.

      Michael Farrell

      08/11/2010 at 2:27 pm

      • Hi, Michael — I don’t think I would ever start a sentence with ‘plus’ in formal writing. However, I think ‘also’ is acceptable? It’s listed in an Oxford University Press/Independent newspaper grammar book among various other words and phrases that can be used at the start of a sentence.


        08/11/2010 at 4:52 pm

        • Well! *bowing down before the Oxford U Press* I’ll rouse up some contrary cites later today.

          Michael Farrell

          08/11/2010 at 6:00 pm

          • Garner, in Garner’s Modern American Usage, advises the use of ‘also’ to start a sentence, rather than ‘too’, which he describes as ‘poor style’. His example is:

            Also, we shouldn’t forget … (Instead of: Too, we shouldn’t forget…).

            Having said that, he goes on to say that the following would be better than either version:

            We shouldn’t forget…


            08/11/2010 at 6:25 pm

  4. “Neither should we forget . . .” perhaps?


    09/11/2010 at 9:37 pm

    • Hi, Ron, yes, that’s another good alternative. Thanks.


      10/11/2010 at 5:31 am

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