‘Lazy’ words you should use in your writing

Don’t be so quick to follow traditional grammar rules and not begin a sentence with ‘and’ or ‘but.’

There are some “writing rules” that stick around like an unwanted party guest. No matter how many times you hint that the party is over, he stays for one more beer. And no matter how many times we insist that these “writing rules” aren’t really rules, they’re still being taught. Examples of these rules include never ending a sentence with a preposition and never splitting an infinitive. Well let’s add another to the list . . . Last week, my fourth-grader very adamantly told me that I could not start a sentence with and. He was reading over my shoulder and told me: “You need to change that mom. It’s wrong.” Now I have no idea why they’re still teaching this “rule” in elementary school. But you can in fact start a sentence with and or but, or any other conjunction. And according to the Chicago Manual of Style … “a substantial percentage (often as many as 10 percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions.” There is no grammar rule in any stylebook or usage manual that I have read that prevents writers from starting a sentence with any conjunction. I believe this prohibition came about for rhetorical or stylistic reasons. I remember being told it was “lazy” to start your sentences with and or but. Well, lazy or not, these words are two of the most useful devices for connecting one sentence to the next. And in the age of distraction—where people want more information but read less—and and but can help your readers connect the dots. And as writers and editors, we do this every day. And in case you’re not convinced, the following sentence from Daily Writing Tips is for you:

“Never begin a sentence with a conjunction. “And why not? For an honorable tradition of doing just that exists. But some people persist in prohibiting this technique. Yet we defy them. Or we simply ignore them or laugh at them, neither of which they appreciate. Nor do they understand our attitude, though we try to convince them, and will continue to do so. So there.”

Readers, care to craft a clever sentence that starts with and or but (or any of your other favorite conjunctions)? Laura Hale Brockway is a writer and editor from Austin, Texas. She writes about writing at www.impertinentremarks.com. (Image via)


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