Conjunctions: When and How to Use Them Properly

When using conjunctions in your literary work, be it articles, essays and papers, blog posts, or even literature, context and voice are the two key things to consider. A post made on a personal blog with the singular goal of representing an individual perspective may use informal, conversational tone which accepts any and all conjunctions in whatever impulse they may arise. People rarely speak in complete sentences and often add to their own points as they occur to them, resulting in many conjunctions at the beginning of these stream-of-consciousness phrases. In a literary tone that mimics an individual personal tone, it is necessary to write in whatever manner the subject speaks. Such a style is not attempting anything truly literary, and thus, unless that individual speaks with careful attention to literary rules and standards (or unless the person is incomprehensible in conversation), voice trumps rule. However, literary standards do apply in every other case.

Can You Start a Sentence With And?

Under no circumstance should any piece of serious writing start with the word ‘and’. The exception to this would be written dialogue in a novel, screenplay, or blog post. There is no other circumstance where starting a sentence with ‘and’ would not immediately degrade the quality of your work. You may use alternative synonyms such as ‘additionally’, ‘in addition’, or ‘furthermore’, but that depends entirely on the style you are pursuing. Bottom line: Can you start a sentence with And? No.

Can You Start a Sentence With However?

Check the last sentence of the first paragraph. ‘However’ may be used correctly if the purpose of the new sentence is to offer a caveat on the claim of the previous. Many people need to assert academic authority when writing, and published non-fiction must hold itself to a particularly high standard. However, not everyone wishes to exude such a formal tone–and indeed, an overly formal tone in an informal context can be alienating and actually result in less effective communication. In some cases, ‘so’, would be more appropriate. Bottom line: Can you start a sentence with However? Yes. It is appropriate for both academic and informal style.

Can You Start a Sentence With Because?

Because there are many different ways to structure evidence and conclusion, there are several instance where it would be appropriate to begin a sentence with the word ‘because’. It would not be appropriate, for example, to write the following: Penelope is unhappy. Because her mother would not let her eat ice cream for breakfast.

However it would be appropriate to restructure the sentiment in the following way, retaining the first word: Because her mother would not let her eat ice cream for breakfast, Penelope was unhappy. Another, more academic example: Because of the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the micro-climate of deforested areas are becoming unstable. As illustrated, a sentence may begin with ‘because’, provided the sentence is complete and contains the evidence first, followed by the conclusion. Bottom line: Can you start a sentence with Because? Yes, but only if you know what you’re doing.

Can You Start a Sentence With So?

‘So’ is a very informal word. We use it often when talking among friends and family. It is a casual way to indicate that what you are about to say is a conclusion that you have drawn from whatever was just immediately discussed. However, the word is not considered acceptable in academic literary standards due to its casual nature. ‘So’ often implies an off-the-cuff conclusion, drawn in the immediacy of conversation–not an acceptable standard of conclusion for a well-researched paper or thoughtful psychological conclusion in a passage analyzing the motivations of a character in your novel (unless, of course, your literary inspirations are Jack Kerouac or J.D. Salinger). Therefore, it is not acceptable to start a sentence with ‘so’ if the evidence in your conclusion is at all academic. A proper word to indicate conclusion is, as shown in the previous sentence, ‘therefore’. Bottom line: can you start a sentence with So? According to academic grammar rules, the answer is no–but it depends on how conversational your style is. So considering that this article uses the second-person ‘you’ when discussing hypotheticals, a conversational tone is enough implied that it may be used without sacrificing the quality of conclusion.

Can You Start a Sentence With But?

You may not use the word ‘but’ and ‘however’ interchangeably. The word ‘but’ is the casual cousin of ‘however’, and can only be brought out during hangouts or informal parties and blog posts. Using ‘but’ within a sentence is acceptable in any context, but beginning a sentence with the same word indicates a lack of thorough analysis and is not considered grammatically accurate. Bottom line: Can you start a sentence with But? No, but you can use it in the middle of a sentence.

Conjunctions can be a bit tricky, and while there are allowances for style and tone, there are certain rules which must be adhere to while using them. ‘So’ and ‘But’ are really are only used in informal conversation or dialogue, but ‘but’ is acceptable mid-sentence regardless of tone and ‘and’ is unacceptable regardless. ‘However’ is acceptable, but it is important to remember that formal tone in an informal setting can be off-putting. Context and style should be considered carefully when beginning sentences with any of these conjunctions.

Do You Need a Comma Before or After But?

You should always use a comma before the word “but” when you are joining two independent clauses. For example:

He wanted to go running, but it was raining.

In this case, “he wanted to go running” and “it was raining” are two independent clauses since they could be sentences by themselves.

You should only add a comma after “but” when there is an adverbial clause or other literary deice following it.

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