Posted by: episystechpubs | November 6, 2014

Editor’s Corner: Beginning Sentences with Conjunctions

The other day, someone asked me whether it is acceptable to start a sentence with and, but, yet, or other coordinating conjunctions. The answer is: it depends.

Many teachers will tell you that it is not at all acceptable; our authority, the Chicago Manual of Style says that the belief that you can’t start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction “has no historical or grammatical foundation.” Additionally, CMOS says “a substantial percentage (often as many as 10 percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions. It has been so for centuries, and even the most conservative grammarians have followed this practice” (CMOS 5.206).

As far as being a technical editor who deals mostly with technical writing, I would recommend that you stay away from this construction. The “first-rate writing” that CMOS mentions is from renowned writers such as Jonathan Swift, Samuel Johnson, Jane Austen, and George Orwell. I don’t think anyone will ever accuse us of penning a masterpiece on lending software.

So, you can use a coordinating conjunction to start a sentence without the grammar police arresting you, but just like anybody can legally wear a bikini—sometimes it is better not to if you can’t do it well.

Need a reminder about how to use conjunctions? Take a trip back to the ‘70s with Schoolhouse Rock.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

www.symitar.com

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