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Robyn Starkey rohina at shaw.ca
Sat Jan 24 15:03:56 EST 2004


>But according to Amis ("The King's English"):
>
>"And the idea that 'and' must not begin a sentence, or even a paragraph, 
>is an empty superstition. The same goes for 'but.' Indeed either word can 
>give unimprovably early warning of the sort of thing that is to follow."
>
>And Garner ("A Dictionary of Modern American Usage"):
>
>"It is a gross canard that beginning a sentence with 'but' is 
>stylistically slipshod. In fact, doing so is highly desirable in any 
>number of contexts, and many stylebooks that discuss the question quite 
>correctly say that but is better than 'however' at the beginning of a 
>sentence . . . "

I think it depends on the type of prose. I don't mind the odd co-ordinating 
conjunction at the beginning of a sentence, but there are better ways to do 
things. I was quite irritated by David Starkey's use of it in Six Wives of 
Henry VIII because other than all the "buts" at beginnings of paragraphs, 
his prose is quite formal. In his case, they are jarring, and often 
unnecessary, and the type of writing he does means that "however" would not 
be out of place.

I tend to jump on my students about it because it is often a symptom that 
their ideas are not being clearly connected. If you have a sentence with 
"and" at the beginning, you are probably trying to establish a relationship 
between two ideas. There are lots of better ways to do that.

Robyn 
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