And another thing…

I’ve worked for over 20 years in the communications industry and on a regular basis the subject of starting sentences with a conjunction (and, but, so etc) comes up. The syntactical convention of the generation or two before mine was that this was a cardinal sin, but copywriters I worked with and latterly myself have eschewed this convention and find it downright old fashioned.

In fact it isn’t even just old fashioned, it’s wrong.

I’d like to share an impassioned defence of this position that a colleague of mine recently used to defend his honour because he preferred to start a sentence of his copy with ‘And’.

I think you’ll agree it’s quite convincing.

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Dear Client

I just wanted to pick up on your comment that starting sentences with ‘And’ is grammatically incorrect.

This is categorically not the case!

When Sir Ernest Gowers revised Fowler in 1965, he treated the question of and at the beginning of sentences as follows:

That it is a solecism to begin a sentence with and is a faintly lingering superstition. The OED gives examples ranging from the 10th to the 19th c.; the Bible is full of them.

To quote a couple of academic sources on the subject:

Beginning a sentence with a conjunction

It offends those who wish to confine English usage in a logical straitjacket that writers often begin sentences with “and” or “but.” True, one should be aware that many such sentences would be improved by becoming clauses in compound sentences; but there are many effective and traditional uses for beginning sentences thus. One example is the reply to a previous assertion in a dialogue: “But, my dear Watson, the criminal obviously wore expensive boots or he would not have taken such pains to scrape them clean.” Make it a rule to consider whether your conjunction would repose more naturally within the previous sentence or would lose in useful emphasis by being demoted from its position at the head of a new sentence.

Source: Washington State University

Main clauses contain a subject and a finite verb. They can be sentences either on their own or joined together with a conjunction (like ‘and’ , ‘then’, ‘but’, ‘or’). Despite what you were probably taught at primary school, sentences can begin with ‘and’ or ‘but’, though do not overdo it: a sentence beginning with ‘and’ is best reserved for the last and most emphatic sentence in a cumulative series.

Source: York University, Guide to writing essays

I’d also like to quote a couple of literary examples. The first from Genesis 1:2-26, King James Version:

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.

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

And the evening and the morning were the third day.

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years

And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.

And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.

And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,

And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.

And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth

And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat

And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Get the point?

The second example is from no less a literary authority than William Shakespeare. There are dozens, probably hundreds of examples in his plays, so I have just chosen one at random; Kent to Regan and Goneril in the first scene, first act of King Lear

To REGAN AND GONERIL

And your large speeches may your deeds approve

That good effects may spring from words of love.

And so, I rest my/his case.

The ‘Ands’ were approved by the way…

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3 thoughts on “And another thing…

  1. God would have flunked my English class. A conjunction’s purpose is to connect words, phrases, or sentences (preceded by a comma). It is not meant to begin a sentence no more than a plus sign is meant to begin a math equation. I suppose you also think it is acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition without an object simply because some other moron in the media has done so?

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