Can You Start a Sentence With a Conjunction – And Why Would You Want To?

Comments 4 by in General
January 30, 2011

A client asked me this question recently. And I told him yes.

For those who have forgotten their school grammar lessons, coordinating conjunctions are those useful joining words: for, and, nor, but, or, yet and so. Many people have been taught that these words are used only to join clauses together.

Yet, according to my trusty source (Graham King’s ‘Collins Improve Your Grammar’): ‘Sometimes, for effect, they (coordinating conjunctions) can start a sentence’.

Nor is this an example of a modern trend. Pick up Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’ and read the first chapter. There is a page in which Carroll starts no fewer than six sentences with ‘and‘, three of them consecutively.

So why would you choose to start a sentence in this way? To my mind, it is an effective way of emphasizing the conjunction above the other elements of the sentence. For example, read the following sentences:

    ‘We produce quality garments and our prices are great’

    ‘We produce quality garments. And at great prices’

Both phrases say the same thing and are grammatically correct but, by making the conjunction stand out, the second does a better job of highlighting both benefits. However, in the first phrase the benefits get blended together so that they seem like two parts of the same thing – the message is diluted.

And I believe that it is subtle stylistic devices like this that make some advertising more effective than others.

But what do you think? Do you keep your ‘ands’ tucked safely away inside your sentences? Or do you agree that a big ‘but’ should sometimes take centre stage?

PS. Did you notice I had used all seven conjunctions to begin most of the sentences above?

Dictionary image shared by Priny under licence (CC Attribution Share-Alike 3.0). Link not available at time of writing.