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Starting a Sentence with a Conjunction

People are often shocked to learn that most of the time it’s fine to start a sentence with a conjunction. And it works much better if the sentence is closely related to the previous one. The main question is whether the sentence is clear and complete.

INCORRECT

  • I’m staying here. And what was life like when you were a kid?
  • But let me tell you: I have a long story about that.
  • Or we could go out for drinks.

CORRECT

The sentences in the first example appear unrelated; starting the second sentence with and makes it seem as if it’s supposed to follow naturally. But it doesn’t. In the second example, the speaker starts a story with but. It’s awkward, unless the speaker is using but to interrupt a thought and launch a different one. In the third example, or has no prior sentence, so the reader doesn’t know the alternative.

MORE TO KNOW

Starting sentences with conjunctions, particularly when they refer to a previous sentence, is not a problem. You’re on solid ground with either “I thought I liked him, but he was a jerk,” or “I thought I liked him. But he was a jerk.” The choice is really one of tone or style. And you can correct those who try to correct you. Don’t start a paragraph with a conjunction, though.

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