Our two cents

‘And’ and ‘but’

Why it’s okay to start a sentence with a conjunction

‘You can’t start a sentence with “and” or “but”!’

Heard this before, and thought it wasn’t quite right? We agree. And so does any grammar guide – they all say it’s absolutely fine. (See what we did there?)

Here’s all the evidence you need to prove them wrong:

‘And the idea that and must not begin a sentence, or even a paragraph, is an empty superstition. The same goes for but. Indeed either word can give unimprovably early warning of the sort of thing that is to follow.’

Kingsley Amis, The King’s English (1997)

‘Contrary to what your high school English teacher told you, there’s no reason not to begin a sentence with but or and; in fact, these words often make a sentence more forceful and graceful. They are almost always better than beginning with however or additionally.’

Professor Jack Lynch, Associate Professor of English, Rutgers University, New Jersey

‘There used to be an idea that it was inelegant to begin a sentence with and. That idea is now as good as dead. And to use and in this position may be a useful way of indicating that what you are about to say will reinforce what you have just said.’

Sir Ernest Gowers, The Complete Plain Words (1954)

‘There is a persistent belief that it is improper to begin a sentence with and, but this prohibition has been cheerfully ignored by standard authors from Anglo-Saxon times onwards.’

RW Burchfield, New Fowler’s Modern English Usage

‘A prejudice lingers from the days of schoolmarmish rhetoric that a sentence should never begin with and. The supposed rule is without foundation in grammar, logic, or art.’

Modern American Usage (1966)

And if they still don’t like it, here are some more examples of people doing it. One of them’s from the Bible, even.

‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

And God saw the light, that [it was] good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.

And the evening and the morning were the first day.’

Genesis, Chapter 1, The Bible, King James version

‘Nonetheless Canada has many good reasons to feel pleased with itself. Its constitutional motto of “peace, order and good government” may not set the pulse racing in the manner of America’s “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Most Americans probably think of it as a dull old neighbour, when they think of it at all. But peace, order and good government are solid virtues, and still rare enough not only to make Canadians count these blessings but also for millions of people from less orderly places to flock to Canada to enjoy them too.’

The Economist

‘Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.’

The US Constitution Article. IV, Section 1