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Curtis Honeycutt | Grammar Guy: Breaking the rules: Starting sentences with conjunctions

I'm here to tell you it's time to let coordinating conjunctions be the star of the sentence. Let them bat leadoff in your unstoppable word lineup.

I’ve never been to a “con.” What I mean by this, of course, is a major “convention” (unless you count the Southern Baptist convention back in 2004, but that’s a story for a different column).

I’m talking about conventions such as Comic-Con, Dragon Con and the D23 Expo, a convention devoted to all things Disney. I’m not enough of a fanboy in any of the above categories to travel great distances in order to buy a limited-edition comic book. Today, I’d like to suggest a new convention for all the word nerds out there: Con Con.

Yes, “Con Con” would be a convention all about conjunctions. Of course, the big stars would be there: “or,” “but” and “and.” However, conjunction super-fans would show up to meet lesser-known cons such as “likewise,” “however” and “nevertheless.” I would try to get all of the conjunctions to sign my custom “Word Nerd” shirt (yes, this is a real thing I paid for to get printed before attending a writing conference).

For years, people have shied away from leading with conjunctions. Some stuffy old 19th-century grammar book told students to never — under penalty of death — begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction.

Coordinating conjunctions are conjunctions that are placed between words, phrases, clauses or sentences of equal rank. An easy way to remember them is to use the mnemonic “fanboys,” which stands for the seven coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet and so. Think of these as the Seven Dwarfs of coordinating conjunctions.

I’m here to tell you it’s time to let coordinating conjunctions be the star of the sentence. Let them bat leadoff in your unstoppable word lineup.

Did you know that both the Associated Press Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style allow beginning your sentences with conjunctions? The AP Stylebook puts it this way: “There’s no AP Stylebook rule against starting a sentence with a conjunction. And it works well in some instances. But don’t overuse it. Or readers will be annoyed.”

Did you catch what they did there?

We can tackle the other two types of conjunctions — subordinating and correlative — another day. But, for now, we’ll continue to be true blue fanboys of coordinating conjunctions. See you at Con Con ‘21!

By Curtis Honeycutt, a syndicated humor columnist, first published on https://www.benningtonbanner.com/ October 4, 2020