Never start a sentence with a conjunction
There are many rules of grammar we are taught in childhood that stick with us when we become adults. We may not remember the why, but we remember the what.
But not all rules are really rules. Some are misremembered. Some mistaught. Others misapplied.
They stay in our minds and colour how we use language through life. How we use language incorrectly.
The Seven Sins of Syntax
The job of a conjunction is to connect two separate words, phrases, or clauses in a sentence.
There are three types of conjunctions.
Pairs of words that show how two things relate to each other: eg; either/or, both/and, as/so.
Words used to show the dependency of one thing upon another: eg, since, after, therefore and because. (Beginning a sentence with ‘because’ is its own sin.)
Words that connect two things of equal importance: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so (FANBOYS).
If we think of a sentence as a mathematical formula, “clause a + clause b = sentence”. The coordinating conjunction acts as the plus sign. Writing the sum as “+ clause a clause b = sentence” is nonsensical.
Following this logic, we believe it to be a sin to start a sentence with a conjunction.
Not So Sinful
But a sentence is not a mathematical formula.
There may seem to be little need to start a sentence with a conjunction. But that doesn’t make doing so a sin.
Unlike some other questionable rules, this rule doesn’t come from a misapplied Latin derivative. There is no antiquated rule of grammatical structure that remains as a hangover from Olde English.
This isn’t a rule at all. It is, arguably, just the result of decades of lazy teaching.
Using coordinating conjunctions is the first step most of us take in our grammatical journeys. By age 3 or 4, children regularly use ‘and’ and ‘but’. They become the basic building blocks of sentence structure, allowing us to describe relationships and dependencies.
By the time we start school, there can be an over-reliance on these conjunctions. It’s common for every sentence to begin with ‘and’ or ‘but’. Early attempts at writing become repetitious and uninteresting.
Rather than being taught the importance of variety, most of us are simply taught doing this at all is wrong.
As children, we tend to do as we are told by teachers. Especially when the rules we’re given are reiterated by our parents. We don’t think to ask why.
When we become adults, we remember the rule. We believe that starting sentences with conjunctions is a sin. And we pass this on, correcting our own children until they break out of the habit.
So the cycle of misbelief continues ad infinitum.
Committing More Sins
There is no rule here to break.
The natural place for a coordinating conjunction is at the centre of a sentence. But it’s also perfectly comfortable at the start. There are no rules about which is better or worse. It is a matter of taste, style, and tone.
It will give your words a different emphasis. You shouldn’t do it all the time – as is the case with most syntax – but it gives you more to play with, stylistically.
For example, compare:
‘I love you, but I must leave you,’ with ‘I love you. But I must leave you.’
‘I told her the truth, and she left immediately,’ with ‘I told her the truth. And she left immediately.’
‘I think their marriage will last forever, or it won’t,’ with ‘I think their marriage will last forever. Or it won’t.’
Some people will tell you that conjunctions must be contained within a sentence.
But they’re wrong.