Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

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charlesjd
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby charlesjd » Fri Apr 02, 2010 5:56 pm

I have always been told/ taught to never start sentences with but or and....

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RVP11
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby RVP11 » Fri Apr 02, 2010 6:03 pm

William Zinsser says you can. Therefore, you can.

honestabe84
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby honestabe84 » Fri Apr 02, 2010 6:04 pm

njskatchmo wrote:The issue isn't whether or not there exists some universal truth by which no one can tell you you are wrong. Rather, the issue is that do you want to take the chance that the reader on the ad comm is one of the people who say it's improper and will actually consider it a mistake.


I thought that admissions committees were made up of law students, law professors, and lawyers. I would be really surprised if someone in either of these groups lack basic knowledge of English mechanics. .

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emilybeth
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby emilybeth » Fri Apr 02, 2010 6:10 pm

Scalia also says it's ok.

atfarmer
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby atfarmer » Sat Apr 03, 2010 5:55 pm

Don't do either with frequency. However, in the right situations, they really add emphasis to a particular statement, as it's so uncommon. My advice? Use them when you're trying to make a point or you want the reader to take particular note of something. Don't start a sentence with "and" or "but" just for the hell of it.

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clevinger33
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby clevinger33 » Sun Apr 04, 2010 1:19 pm

honestabe84 wrote:
njskatchmo wrote:The issue isn't whether or not there exists some universal truth by which no one can tell you you are wrong. Rather, the issue is that do you want to take the chance that the reader on the ad comm is one of the people who say it's improper and will actually consider it a mistake.


I thought that admissions committees were made up of law students, law professors, and lawyers. I would be really surprised if someone in either of these groups lack basic knowledge of English mechanics. .


You'd be surprised at the number of intelligent people in this world that take a pretty hard-and-fast stance on the rules of grammar.


. . . That said, I just reread my personal statement and I started one sentence with "But." I think one of the profs that proofread it told me to consider replacing it, but he said it was ultimately my choice.

honestabe84
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby honestabe84 » Sun Apr 04, 2010 1:59 pm

This sucks. After the first few responses to this thread, I was confident that it's perfectly acceptable. Now I'm back where I started.

cubswin
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby cubswin » Sun Apr 04, 2010 2:21 pm

honestabe84 wrote:This sucks. After the first few responses to this thread, I was confident that it's perfectly acceptable. Now I'm back where I started.


There are no hard-and-fast rules about this sort of thing, which is one reason you are so confused. One style manual may universally forbid starting with "but," while another may permit it where it serves your rhetorical purposes. Just start your damn sentence with "but" and ensure that your prose isn't otherwise laden with mistakes. If you appear like you know what you're doing, it will probably slip by unnoticed. I can't seriously imagine a member of an ad-comm sitting there, reviewing your application and all of a sudden exclaiming, "A-ha! I sensed this applicant was a moron! This confirms it: he started a sentence with a conjunction! Have fun at Cooley, Mr. Honestabe84!"

David Foster Wallace did all kinds of unconventional stuff with his writing, including starting sentences with "And but so," but I doubt anyone would accuse him of grammatical ignorance.

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ggocat
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby ggocat » Sun Apr 04, 2010 2:53 pm

cubswin wrote:There are no hard-and-fast rules about this sort of thing, which is one reason you are so confused. One style manual may universally forbid starting with "but," while another may permit it where it serves your rhetorical purposes.

I think the hard-and-fast rule is that it is OK to start a sentence with a conjunction. Garner in the Chicago Manual of Style says the prohibition on starting a sentence with a conjunction has "no historical grammatical foundation . . . and even the most conservative grammarians have" followed the practice of starting sentences with conjunctions. "Charles Allen Lloyd's 1938 words fairly sum up the situation as it stands even today: 'Next to the groundless notion that it is incorrect to end an English sentence with a preposition, perhaps the most wide-spread of the many false beliefs about the use of our language is the equally groundless notion that it is incorrect to begin one with "but" or "and." As in the case of superstition about the prepositional ending, no textbook supports it . . . . One cannot help wondering whether those who teach such a monstrous doctrine ever read any English themselves.'"

CMS 5.191.

Are there any style manuals that universally forbid starting a sentence with a conjunction?
Last edited by ggocat on Sun Apr 04, 2010 4:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

honestabe84
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby honestabe84 » Sun Apr 04, 2010 2:58 pm

Nightrunner wrote:
cubswin wrote:David Foster Wallace did all kinds of unconventional stuff with his writing, including starting sentences with "And but so," but I doubt anyone would accuse him of grammatical ignorance.

To be fair, Wallace's non-literary work was so erudite that everyone knew that he knew the rules he chose to break. Applicants do not have that luxury.

Still, OP, if it is a one-time exception for an important sentence, just do it.


It is. I'm only doing it once, and if I didn't do it, the text would not flow as well as it could.

r6_philly
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby r6_philly » Sun Apr 04, 2010 4:05 pm

I shouldn't be involved in a debate about grammar and English. But I do read a lot of Supreme Court opinions, and they do start with "but" quite a bit. It seems that justices frequently have to present contradicting ideas, and the usage of "but" really helps that purpose. I don't know if opinions are considered legal writing, but it is used quite frequently in the high court. I don't think anyone is critical of the justices for their lack of writing ability, nor do I think the hordes of clerks ever felt that the usage of "but" to start a sentence is improper.

14yearplan
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby 14yearplan » Sun Apr 04, 2010 4:30 pm

umichgrad wrote:But for the pedantic style of grade-school teaching, good writers would not feel obligated to be hemmed in by some outdated suggestion. And that's not to mention the sillyness of encouraging any writer to adhere to somebody else's vapid 5-paragraph structure or 19th century grammatical concerns. However, if you're going to do any of these things (especially using split infinitives), please ensure that your usage increases the clarity of your writing.



But shouldn't the above be, "five-paragraph," rather than, "5-paragraph"? And, for that matter, is that the correct usage of the question mark in the last sentence insofar as putting it outside the quotation mark? And before I get completely sidetracked, is it acceptable to use contractions in a personal statement?

honestabe84
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby honestabe84 » Sun Apr 04, 2010 5:56 pm

14yearplan wrote:
umichgrad wrote:But for the pedantic style of grade-school teaching, good writers would not feel obligated to be hemmed in by some outdated suggestion. And that's not to mention the sillyness of encouraging any writer to adhere to somebody else's vapid 5-paragraph structure or 19th century grammatical concerns. However, if you're going to do any of these things (especially using split infinitives), please ensure that your usage increases the clarity of your writing.



But shouldn't the above be, "five-paragraph," rather than, "5-paragraph"? And, for that matter, is that the correct usage of the question mark in the last sentence insofar as putting it outside the quotation mark? And before I get completely sidetracked, is it acceptable to use contractions in a personal statement?


I was told no.

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ggocat
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby ggocat » Sun Apr 04, 2010 6:02 pm

14yearplan wrote:And before I get completely sidetracked, is it acceptable to use contractions in a personal statement?

Acceptable, yes. Recommended, I don't know.

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ggocat
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby ggocat » Sun Apr 04, 2010 6:20 pm

Nightrunner wrote:
ggocat wrote:
14yearplan wrote:And before I get completely sidetracked, is it acceptable to use contractions in a personal statement?

Acceptable, yes. Recommended, I don't know.

Protip: it is almost always a bad thing to use contractions in a formal essay.

Yet contractions are common in legal writing, particularly in what many professors would call an "essay."

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Aeon
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby Aeon » Sun Apr 04, 2010 6:29 pm

Traditionally, it was frowned upon to begin a sentence with a conjunction, but the standards have become more lax recently. I very much doubt that anyone would object to the occasional sentence beginning with "and" or "but." Doing this too much might make your writing appear choppy to the reader, but ultimately, it's just a stylistic choice.

It's not unlike ending a sentence with a preposition: technically, frowned upon by traditional standards of modern English, but in practice, something most of us can get away being occasionally guilty of. :wink:

r6_philly
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby r6_philly » Sun Apr 04, 2010 6:36 pm

Nightrunner wrote:Legal writing ≠ a formal essay for admission to law school


I don't know how true this statement is. Many law school applicants are not trained in the liberal arts. Science majors are required to take technical writing courses for requirements. I can't see why schools will penalize your writing if you write as if you would in legal writing. After all your PS is not a piece of fiction, and it's purpose is to exhibit your ability to present yourself and your ideas in a limited space, so I wouldn't necessarily consider your PS as a "formal essay". Isn't Yale's 250 an example of this as well?

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romothesavior
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby romothesavior » Sun Apr 04, 2010 6:43 pm

Someone above said it, but I'll reiterate...

Nothing wrong with but/and, but there are other words you can use to convey the same meaning without risking the use of but/and.

Instead of but, use "however" or "yet."

Instead of and, use "in addition."

There may be times where these won't work, but I think it might be wise to change but/and into these wherever possible.

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romothesavior
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby romothesavior » Sun Apr 04, 2010 6:44 pm

romothesavior wrote:Someone above said it, but I'll reiterate...

Nothing wrong with but/and, but there are other words you can use to convey the same meaning without risking the use of but/and.

Instead of but, use "however" or "yet."

Instead of and, use "in addition."

There may be times where these won't work, but I think it might be wise to change but/and into these wherever possible.


And sorry for posting like aberzombie. That kind of one-line posting is a huge pet peeve of mine, and I'm guilty of doing it right there.

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tomhobbes
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby tomhobbes » Sun Apr 04, 2010 6:53 pm

I guess I broke a lot of rules in my personal statement. I wrote it in a pretty casual tone, used a lot of contractions, began sentences with "but," and did some other stuff people tell you never to do, like talking about religion. It worked out well. My personal statement ended up being significantly better than it would have been if I had accepted the common wisdom of TLS.

270910
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby 270910 » Sun Apr 04, 2010 6:56 pm

The personal statement is a very flexible vehicle. Depending on how you write it, contractions will likely either stand out as out of place or be almost required for proper style.

honestabe84
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby honestabe84 » Sun Apr 04, 2010 6:57 pm

I think I'm going to go ahead and leave it in my PS. I've written many papers where I have began a sentence with either word, and I have yet to get a complain from any of my professor.

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ggocat
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby ggocat » Sun Apr 04, 2010 8:06 pm

romothesavior wrote:Instead of but, use "however" or "yet."

Instead of and, use "in addition."

Emoticon is insufficient to express my feelings: --ImageRemoved--

Garner seems to have a pet peeve about people use "however" when a simple "but" would suffice. I heard him give a speech once, and he went off on that for awhile. Personally, I think the simpler and/but is almost always better than the lengthier however/additionally.

honestabe84
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby honestabe84 » Sun Apr 04, 2010 8:12 pm

But and however are not completely interchangeable imo. Sometimes one is clearly the better choice than the other.

notanumber
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Re: Beginning a sentence with "but" or "and?"

Postby notanumber » Sun Apr 04, 2010 8:21 pm

honestabe84 wrote:I think I'm going to go ahead and leave it in my PS. I've written many papers where I have began a sentence with either word, and I have yet to get a complain from any of my professor.


Awesome. Don't let the pedants destroy your prose.

EDIT: Wait.... I just realized that you're writing your personal statement months before you apply. I suppose that's cool, being prepared and all, but I'd wait a few months before you start stressing out about these things. . . Who knows, in the next 6 months you might cure herpes or win the lottery or win American Idol or something equally game-changing. . .




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