General grammar thread (was Re: Checking in)

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Sun Jan 25 06:09:23 EST 2004


Robyn replied to Jon (or to Amis and Gardner, I suppose):

>>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'd say it was fine on its own, and just once in a way rather than as a
habit, as with "and" and "but".  Now can someone riddle me this: what is
the reason (or the excuse, perhaps) for "And[comma]" or "But[comma]" as the
opening of a sentence?  I can see why the comma gets into "However, in x"
or "Nevertheless, when we see y" -- I may not like it but I can understand
how it happens, because the "however" or the "nevertheless" might go
between a pair of commas later in the sentence.  I don't at all understand
the *need* for the and-comma opening, in any example I have met.

Minnow


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