January 30, 2012

Buts are so annoying!

Welcome to 'Grammar Mondays'! Today's topic is the very annoying but.

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.-
            "In the not so distant past, an English assignment daring to begin a sentence with a conjunction would have been returned with red ink splattered all over it. But, as Bob Dylan sang, the times they are a-changin'."
             "However, it is worth bearing in mind that some readers, grounded in 20th century teaching methodology, will still recoil from such heresy. Overuse can also be downright irritating. Therefore, it is advisable to use this literary tool sparingly.
            Words such as 'nevertheless', 'however' and 'therefore' offer an alternative to 'but' as a method of opening sentences with a linking word. The grammar is more traditional, and would definitely still be the acceptable format to use in technical writing, or for formal letters."

             "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."


Jade Hart said...

Awesome post Amber - did I give you the inspiration for the 'but' seeing as I use it a bit too often? lol. I kept meaning to tell you I had read it was okay with a complete sentence, but kept forgetting! Love your post though :) Keep up the awesome blogging

Jade Hart said...

Hey Amber, me again, your personal stalker :) I've left a Stinky Award for you on my blog. Come and claim it chickie :)

Amber said...

@Jade, haha you're so funny. Actually my own ignorance was my inspiration. I picked up a book not too long ago and it was littered with fragments and 'But' sentences. It drove me bananas! So I hit the web to educate myself because obviously some things are more slack than I remembered from school :) And thanks for the award!! I'll hop right on over and check it out :)