Starting with And or But

Inexperienced writers sometimes start too many sentences with And. Incompetent teachers try to correct this problem by forbidding students from using And to begin any sentence at all. Worse still, some extend the rule to include But as well.

None of that has anything to do with correct grammar or proper usage. Purveyors of this “rule” seem to think initial Ands and Buts violate some grammatical or stylistic principle. But they can’t explain exactly what it is. And good writers have always felt free to start the occasional sentence with an And or a But.

First-Rate Writers Start Sentences with And & But

“And most strikingly, their procedures are so reasonable and logical that they see right through intended deception.”
— Marjorie Garber, Shakespeare After All (590)

“But the image is already more than a simple assertion of successful domination; it conveys a complex interweaving of condescension, menace, and entreaty.”
— Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning (151)

“But the results of the rout went beyond the demoralization of the survivors.”
— John Keegan, The Face of Battle (97)

“And it seems to me absolutely essential to face this sense squarely and get it firmly fixed in our minds.”
— C. S. Lewis, Studies in Words (92)

“And to the ordinary member of the play’s audience, these labels pick out distinct and separate features of the ethical world.”
— Martha Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness (54)

“And there is, come to think of it, that unsounded b, to keep alive some small doubt.”
— Christopher Ricks, Beckett’s Dying Words (51)

“But the modesty is usually false.”
— William Safire, What’s the Good Word? (44)

“But though the French negotiators were prisoners themselves and the Dauphin at home was beleaguered by events in Paris, the French balked at the hard terms proposed.”
— Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror (154)


Page Last Updated: 30 August 2016