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I remember being taught in school that you shouldn't start a sentence with a conjunction in formal writing. I don't know what falls into the category of "formal" writing (business correspondence?) but it seems to me that this rule is either lax in novel writing or it has simply become lax in general.

I'm speaking of, in particular, the conjunctions "and" and "but" which seem to beg me quite often to place them at the forefront of my sentences. I am quite guilty of starting many sentences with one or the other. It's part of my writing style. But, (and here I go!) each time I do there is a portion of my brain that pauses and wonders if I should be limiting myself. Is this something an editor would cringe at or is it truly acceptable in the publishing industry?

So my questions for the day are: Does anyone have educated insight on this question? And, do you, as writers, ever use conjunctions as sentence starters in your own writing? Often? What are your thoughts on this?


PJ Hoover said...

I always start sentences with "and" "or" "but" yet". All the time.
And I like doing it!
I think it's a style thing. Some people will probably never do it!

Heather Hansen said...


Shut off that part of your brain that tells you not to. Be a rebel. ;)

Sheri Perl-Oshins said...

I am a former LA teacher. So here is how I used to explain it... In creative writing, it's called poetic license. You should not use conjunctions in the beginning of sentences for essays, cover letters, resumes, letters to people whom you do not know personally, etc. But (aha! see, I do it too!) in creative writing; poetry, stories, etc, it is permissible because it becomes part of the meaning of the sentence. It gives strength to an otherwise weak word function - conjunctions. it creates a hanging-on-a-thread thought... a thought that is dangling there and yet, important.

I was told, you first must know the rules before you can break the rules. Starting a sentence with a conjunction gives it power and builds tension in your sentence. I love using them at the beginning of my sentences, but like every thing else, do not overuse a rule breaker. Save it for big moments, emotional moments, and definitely in dialogue.