conjunctions start sentence

Many of us learned in elementary school that it’s incorrect to start a sentence with a conjunction, a word like “and,” “but,” or “so.” According to this perspective, it wouldn’t be correct to write a sentence like this:

  • “And the report is due on Wednesday.”

In reality, this “rule” that many of us learned isn’t actually true. From a grammatical standpoint, there’s nothing wrong with placing a conjunction at the beginning of a sentence. This means that the following sentences are all grammatically correct:

  • “But the project won’t begin for another three months.”
  • “And we’ll exceed our budget within the first two months.”
  • “So I’m not sure why we’re doing this.”

Some of you may be looking at these sentences and thinking that they look odd. They may seem this way for two reasons. First, if you’re used to believing that it’s wrong to start a sentence with a conjunction, sentences that do start with a conjunction will seem off. Second, and perhaps most importantly, we don’t see sentences written like this very often. Why? Because a lot of people believe that it’s wrong to start a sentence with a conjunction.

Although there isn’t anything grammatically wrong with starting a sentence with a conjunction, the fact that so many people think it’s wrong makes it incorrect in the court of public opinion. This creates a bit of a challenge for those of us who know that it’s perfectly fine to start sentences with conjunctions: we know that it’s grammatically okay to start a sentence with a conjunction, but because so many people think it isn’t, they may think that we’re the ones who don’t know proper grammar if we write this way. The last thing you want is for people to think that you aren’t competent and proficient in English because your website or admissions essay contains sentences that don’t fit their beliefs about what is and isn’t “proper” English.

Because so many people misunderstand how to use conjunctions at the beginning of sentences, we suggest being cautious about starting sentences with them. If you’re writing for someone who you know has a good grasp of grammar, then go ahead and use conjunctions at the beginning of a sentence. However, if you’re not sure about your reader’s grammar skills or you’re preparing a high-stakes document (e.g., startup one-pager or admissions essay), you may want to err on the side of caution and avoid beginning sentences with conjunctions.

It may seem odd for us to suggest that you should write based on your reader’s beliefs rather than based on what’s grammatically correct. At the end of the day, though, the goal of writing is to communicate something in the way that’s going to make sense to your reader. Plus, there’s nothing wrong with writing sentences that don’t start with conjunctions.

Have any lingering questions about starting sentences with a conjunction? Leave us a note in our comments section below and we’ll do our best to incorporate it into one of our upcoming posts.

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Can you start a sentence with “and,” “so,” or “but”?
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