One gram­mar rule you may have heard in school is to nev­er start a sen­tence with a con­junc­tion (such as “and” or “but”). This is actu­al­ly anoth­er one of those made-up, recent inven­tions that has no basis in fact.

Actu­al­ly, Eng­lish speak­ers have start­ed sen­tences with con­junc­tions for 1,200 years. 

In his book Descrip­tive Syn­tax of the Old Eng­lish Char­ters, Charles Mer­ritt Carl­ton ana­lyzes sev­er­al char­ters writ­ten in Old Eng­lish. His find­ings (see page 37) show that although the ini­tial sen­tence in each doc­u­ment nev­er start­ed with a con­junc­tion, sub­se­quent sen­tences did. Not only did sen­tences start with con­junc­tions, but it was by far the most pop­u­lar part of speech to start sub­se­quent sen­tences. In fact, 69.1% of sen­tences in the 9th cen­tu­ry doc­u­ments, 48.6% in the 10th cen­tu­ry doc­u­ments, and 72.4% in the 11th cen­tu­ry doc­u­ments start­ed with con­junc­tions.

So, if you ever want to write some­thing like:

She dared us to eat the hot pep­pers. And we did.

feel free, and ignore any­one who tells you it’s wrong.

With that being said, there is one caveat. Start­ing sen­tences with con­junc­tions tends to lend a con­ver­sa­tion­al tone, so you may want to avoid it in for­mal doc­u­ments.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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