Monday, June 4, 2012

Grammar--Rule or Choice?

The blogathon I participated in last month is over. I managed to post every day during May--that's 31 consecutive days. During that time, I visited a good many of the other blogs that were taking the challenge. It was fun to see the many different themes and the varied approaches bloggers use. I hope to continue reading some of them.

But on to today's topic. A woman in my critique group brought up a question about something that bothers her. She said it drives her crazy when a writer begins a sentence with either And or But. She wanted to know if it was only her or did it bother other writers, too. 

Friday, my post brought out the point that writers read books, stories and articles a bit differently than a nonwriter. My fellow critter proved that point with her question. 

Several people chimed in with an answer. Some weren't disturbed by it while some of the others said it drove them crazy, too. My two cents was that it's a personal choice to use those either of those two conjunctions as the first word in a sentence. It's not grammatically incorrect, but it may not be the very best style either. To me, using And or But to begin a sentence means I want to put some real emphasis on those words. I want people to sit up and listen. It might mean I'm putting a condition on whatever was said in the previous sentence. It may be a way of not writing too long a sentence by stringing two separate thoughts together in a sentence that is overwhelming. Even so, it's not to be used too often.

There are definite rules in grammar but sometimes it's more a matter of choice. The writer needs to write what feels comfortable to her. I've seen sentences that begin with a conjunction in national magazines or in books by noted authors. If an editor hated it, they'd dump those initial words in a hurry. 

In defense of the person in my group that brought the subject to our attention, there are a lot of little things that bug us. However, that's going to happen only if we let it. I know I will never read her work and find a sentence beginning with a conjunction. My own bugaboo when I read is the word got. It seems crude to me but there would be other readers who would pass right on by that word and never cringe. 

So, there you are--it comes down to choice and what bothers each individual. Do you have words that make you shudder when you read them? Tell us about them.


  1. And and But to start a sentence took some getting used to for me. Irregardless makes me crazy, but so many people have adopted it as a real world (to the point it's even listed in some online dictionaries now).

    What bugs me more than anything else is inconsistency. Choose a rule and stick to it, even if you are breaking a rule. If you go back and forth, it makes me think it's wrong or you couldn't decide. Either way, I'm annoyed.

    Also, too many ... in dialogue or in writing. I tend to see it more in dialogue. I can usually figure out from the scene if someone is stuttering or pausing. The only time I care to see a ... in dialogue is when someone is abruptly interrupted.

    At the end of the day, I'm much more lenient with a good story than a weak one.

    Great topic!

    1. "Irregardless" is a double negative and although it is still in some dictionaries, it really should be abolished. A phrase that annoys me and is incorrect, is "for all intensive purposes." I can't tell you how many people use it that way, when it should be "for all intents and purposes." Don't get me started! :)

      Maria H.

  2. You all taught me the evils of the word "that" as in "the cookie that I ate." Now the overuse of that drives me crazy.

  3. I was always taught in school to never begin a sentence with And or But. Over the years, however, I find that there are times when it is just exactly how I want to convey something. Or sometimes it is just too awkward or stilted to do otherwise.

    I do find myself looking to see how many times I've done that in a blog post and re-writing things.

    Aren't you glad Blogathon is over? I really enjoyed it but it was so relaxing taking this week-end off!

  4. Yes, I can't stand if something is "chockful" of something else; it's totally overused, especially in travel articles.

    You are right, using "and" at the beginning of a sentence is a stylistic thing, and if a writer does it too often (I tend to), it's a tick that hopefully our critiquing friends will point out!

  5. I agree with the other commenters - using "and" or "but" at the beginning of a sentence is a style matter. In some forms of writing, such as business communications, you probably wouldn't do this, but in fiction, copywriting and creative non-fiction, the "rules" don't really work.