What’s wrong with a sentence starting with “but”?

Have you ever been told that you shouldn’t start a sentence with “but”, “and”, “or”, “yet” or “because”? Maybe your response to that was “why shouldn’t I?”

The aforementioned words are all conjunctions (with the possible exception of “because”, which some word nerds argue is a preposition, but that’s a different essay) and are used to connect phrases or clauses within a sentence. It’s because they are linking words that so many writers and editors are not keen on seeing them at the beginning of a sentence – they need to refer back to the sentence before them in order to make sense.

To illustrate this, consider the below sentence couplets and whether they might function better as a single sentence:

“I waved at my friend. But she didn’t see me.”

“He told me to be quiet. Yet he was the one making the most noise.”

Not starting a sentence with a conjunction helps you avoid “fragments” like the above, and usually leads to a more concise, consistent and flowing style of writing.

That said, the advice is often ignored, as indicated by the paragraphs starting with “and” and “but” in this soccer match report, so it’s by no means a no-no if you feel confident. If you prefer to stay safe though, it’s better to leave it out.

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