And but because: Beginning with Conjunctions

One of the lessons we all learned (I assume) in school was to not begin a sentence with a conjunction. And and but are for connecting elements within a sentence, but not for connecting actual sentences. I’m guilty of teaching this ‘”rule” as well. I definitely encouraged students to avoid using conjunctions to start sentences. So why do teachers do this? Let’s look at what conjunctions actually do.

Conjunctions

Conjunctions connect. That’s their main job (think back to the School House Rock video). Conjunctions link elements of sentences together, but I’d argue they also connect related sentences together.

One type of conjunction is the coordinating conjunction. These conjunctions are the most common, and they work to connect two equal parts. Here are some examples: I like coffee and tea. I hate olives, but I love olive oil.

Fun fact: coordinating conjunctions are the FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet so).

Another type of conjunction is the subordinating conjunction. These conjunctions join a subordinate clause to an independent clause. We use subordinating conjunctions when we write more complex sentences. These conjunctions go at the beginning of the subordinate clause, which can be either at the beginning or the middle of a sentence. Here are some examples: Although I hate olives, I love olive oil. Before you go, take out the trash. We’ll ride our bikes to the restaurant, unless it rains.

Lastly, there is the correlative conjunction. These conjunctions are pairs that work together, like not only . . . but also. Again, these words work together to show the relationships in the sentence. Correlative conjunctions show that each part is equal. For instance, I want both salt and pepper on my salad. There are lists of pairs that you can search up online if you want more details on what other pairs there are.

What’s the rule?

There are no rules when it comes to starting sentences with conjunctions. Often you’ll see advice that too many conjunction sentence beginnings becomes repetitive. But just remember, what is the function of a conjunction? They join things together. So if you are finished writing a sentence, and you want to connect the next sentence to that idea, you can use a conjunction. And it will be a correct sentence.

The Takeaway

Unless your company or business has a style guide that says not to use conjunctions to start sentences (especially coordinating conjunctions), then using conjunctions as sentences starters is all a matter of style and choice. If your choices make sense and adds to your voice, go for it! And don’t be afraid to experiment. Happy writing!

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Prepositions at the end?

I think we all want our writing to sound educated and sophisticated. We might not always speak eloquently, but we try hard to impress when it’s in writing. I know this is especially true from personal experience when teachers get around to report card writing. Suddenly they (we, when I was teaching) take on a voice that almost seems alien. But in general, I think that once we decide to put something into writing, we panic (at times) and start to lose our voice. Suddenly we try to remember all of the grammar rules we can think of from school.

So friends, can you actually end a sentence with a preposition? I know a lot of folks reword their sentences to avoid using a preposition at the end, but is that even necessary? Is that rule even applicable? Can we finally take a deep breath and allow our sentences to end with a preposition?

The rule to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition comes from the 1700s in England (according to Woe is I by Patricia T. O’Conner). As with a lot of grammar rules, this rule allowed people another way to communicate their level of education (perhaps). For maybe hundreds of years, students have been taught that to end in a preposition isn’t formal. I think that a lot of great sentences were probably rewritten by eager students (and eager former students), trying desperately to follow all of the grammar rules. I can maybe see why (maybe) this was a rule if I try (really hard) to understand what a preposition is.

Prepositions

The word itself means position before. Prepositions are functional, and very useful, and they show direction, location, and time (on, to, from, over, at, by, with, under, and many more). They help us to explain things with more clarity (often).

Do you remember School House Rock? They made a video about prepositions (which is worth the time to see). Some examples of prepositions in sentences are, He was on the bus with his friends. She went over the hurtle. It was written by Marx. He came from over there.

What’s the rule?

In my opinion, I think that when grammar is taught, we often freeze and feel a lot of responsibility. So if there’s a book of rules created, we teach that book (there’s no time to research an abstract grammar rule when you’re a teacher!). And that’s how I think we ended up holding onto the rule that you can’t end a sentence with a preposition for so long. It just kept being taught, and thousands of writers continued to follow it after they left school.

Any of the websites that you look at online when you research ending sentences in prepositions say it’s not a rule! Some might try to convince you that ending a sentence in a prepositions is less formal, but it’s not. Friends, stop rewriting those sentences! It was never a good rule, authors never used it, stop teaching this rule, and don’t worry so much about the word your sentence ends on. There’s nothing to worry about. That rule is over. (And I could carry on with sentences ending in prepositions).

The big takeaway here is that grammar changes (and that some rules are made to be broken). We are so fortunate to have the internet and we can research quickly. If you’re not sure, look at multiple sources. In this case—the case of whether or not to end a sentence with a preposition—you will find that you are free. Carry on. End with a preposition if you want to. Throw this old rule out. Don’t get left behind.

And happy writing!

Photo by Ian Barsby on Unsplash