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Video transcript

hey grammarians some of you may have been raised like me with the superstition that it wasn't okay to start a sentence with the conjunction like four or and or nor or or but but I'm here to tell you not to bury the lead totally fine like it you you may do this there is nothing ungrammatical about this construction let me show you what I mean and and what sort of sentences have historically been regarded by some people as unacceptable so let's let's start by looking at this two sentence paragraph Ginny looked at the painting suspiciously but as she turned away she didn't see it look at her or just starting something on its own without without connecting it to you know you can start a paragraph with it like but the question remains what is art there's this there's this superstition that says that you can't begin sentences with conjunctions that it's ungrammatical or weak writing and I don't think either of these things are true in fact I think this is a conflation or a confusion of a couple separate issues in writing but sometimes you want to punctuate a sentence by beginning with the conjunction there's a kind of dramatic tension you can access by beginning a sentence like that kind of expectedly leaping into action what I like about sentence initial but here is that it kind of you think the sentence is over and it is but then this other thing happens and and and putting it after a piece of terminal punctuation like a period really serves to bring into sharp relief whatever it is you're trying to say after the button I think this is an awfully useful technique and I'm not alone Brian garner the the author of the the usage manual that I use most of the time Garner's modern American usage he says that about nine percent of sentences by what he calls first-rate writers begin with and button so or other words in in the fanboys mnemonic if you remember fanboys that's for and nor but or yet so none those are the the coordinating conjunctions it's not just garner because that's a relatively recent publication but we're talking about language authorities going back to like anglo-saxon times have never had a problem with starting sentences with conjunctions I think where the prohibition has traditionally come from where this super this language superstition comes from is a conflation with another problem let's get to that on the next screen all right consider the following utterance because I said so is this a sentence no actually this is what's called a sentence fragment because I said so is a dependent clause it can't stand on its own and a sentence because is what we call a subordinating conjunction so dependent clauses follow subordinating conjunctions which means that they they grant context but they can't stand on their own as sentences if you remember the analogy I used previously an independent clause you know is like a tree and a subordinating conjunction marking a dependent clause is like a ladder leaning up against that tree you can have the tree without the ladder but without the tree to lean on the ladder is not going to stand up now it's totally fine to begin a sentence with because as long as it's attached to an independent clause so you know you could say because I told them to comma the goblins built me a sandcastle very nice so the little goblins do that so I think because of that fear of just ending the sentence as because I told them to of creating the sentence fragment I I think it's pretty easy to simplify all that down into just saying oh don't start sentences with conjunctions just generally so this is really less about how you start an utterance and more about how you end it if you're going to start a sentence with a conjunction of any kind you have to make sure that you're actually producing a sentence so think about your follow-through is ultimately the the takeaway here if you start a sentence with a conjunction make sure you're building towards some kind of independent clause now don't get me wrong sentence fragments definitely have their place but not in formal writing you would use this maybe for rhetorical effect or to approach a kind of realism in dialog but not not in essay writing right not for the newspaper I just I just want to repeat there's not there's not really a rule against beginning sentences with conjunctions it's a superstition frankly and in practice the rule is generally ignored so I read this paper from like 1994 or so that analyzed the frequency of the word but in newspapers and found that 60 percent of the time it was used at the beginnings of sentences which is way more often then certainly I expected but it makes sense for that medium it's punchy it's dramatic but yeah it gets a little stale if you use it too often I think but again you can absolutely begin sentences with conjunctions it's just that if you start a sentence with a conjunction you have to follow through and actually make it a sentence if you begin a sentence with a subordinating conjunction you're writing a dependent clause that needs to be followed up by an independent clause right so if you're beginning with a subordinating clause you're making the latter and you need to follow it up with a tree but lean on but if you begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction like one of the fanboys conjunctions knew you're in good shape just try not to overuse it as you avoid overusing anything moderation and all things so take away write full sentences and put your best butt forward you can learn anything Dave it out