I had it beat into my head as a student to NEVER, EVER begin a sentence with the word but, and I was fine with that. But it seems the times are evolving, and so must I. So, like any self-respecting, aspiring author, I hit the web to educate myself because obviously I have missed the memo that it is now okay to use but to start a sentence.
This is what I have learned.....
You can start a sentence with but, however, you are still expected to write a complete sentence. Beginning with but does not give you an excuse to cut your sentence short, and I would save it for when you really want to make a sentence pop. Typically but is used to connect an incomplete sentence and a complete sentence with an opposite clause. But if the statement following the word but is complete, then it can stand as its own sentence.
Exmple of when a comma is needed:
- I'll go to the store, but not today.
- I like those shoes, but not the other ones.
A complete sentence needs a subject, verb, and complete thought. In both of these cases the verb and subject are before the 'but'. Now, let's add a subject and verb after the word 'but'.
- I'll go to the store. But I'd rather go to the store tomorrow.
- I like those shoes. But I don't like those other shoes.
Granted these are horrible sentences, but I wanted to show how to use them both ways. <---And in this case the statement before the word 'but' is an incomplete thought. So even though what follows 'but' is complete, the beginning can't stand alone. I know....super confusing!!! It's okay to connect a complete sentence to an incomplete sentence with a comma and conjunction (and, but, or). When you shouldn't connect with a comma and conjunction is when they are two complete sentences.
But if your sentence is a complete sentence, then please feel free to begin with a conjunction. But I warn you to use it sparingly. But then again we are all free to make our own decisions. But I am pretty smart, so you really should listen to my advice. Okay, I'll shut up now. :)
Here are some great links to check out, plus some of what I took from each :)
The link above has some wonderful tips. This is what I took from there.-
"There is a reason why we don't usually start sentences with "but". A sentence is supposed to be a complete thought. A partial idea makes the sentence a tail without a dog. If just the tail is what a writer wants, this is called anapodoton (I had to look it up). It's Greek for (guess what?) "leaving out the main clause". "
This site had wonderful tips!!http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/conjunctions.htm- But here's a quote I pasted from the page in case you don't want to read all of it.
"Writers should examine such sentences with two questions in mind: (1) would the sentence and paragraph function just as well without the initial conjunction? (2) should the sentence in question be connected to the previous sentence? If the initial conjunction still seems appropriate, use it."