mabfan (Michael A. Burstein) (mabfan) wrote,
mabfan (Michael A. Burstein)

Robert's Rules of Writing #73: Join Up

[Rule quoted from Robert's Rules of Writing: 101 Unconventional Lessons Every Writer Needs to Know by Robert Masello (Writer's Digest Books, 2005). See my original post for the rules of this discussion.]

With this rule, Masello takes a look at the question of starting a sentence with a conjunction. Is it okay, he asks, to start a sentence with the word "and" or "but"?

His answer is yes. His basic attitude, which is simple and elegant, is that prose has to flow. There's no need to follow a writing "rule" just because it was taught to you years ago in elementary school. He sums up his main point with the following question, one he asks himself when writing a sentence: "Does it sound right and communicate my meaning?"

Masello also uses this short essay to discuss words and phrases such as "of course," "furthermore," and "consequently." I have to admit that I'm glad to see him encourage these transition words. Frequently (hey, there's one now!), when I'm writing blog posts, I start my sentences with transition words and I wonder if I'm coming off as too formal in my prose. After thinking about it for a while, I came to the same decision that Masello did. If the transition makes my meaning clearer, then by all means I ought to leave it in.

On the other hand, I still try to avoid starting sentences with "and" or "but." Generally, I'll try to rephrase my sentences if I find that I'm starting a sentence with the word "and." The word "but" is easier to replace, though; I usually just go with a "however." However (ha!), I sometimes find that I start two or three paragraphs in a row with the word "however" when writing a first draft, and so I have to go back and edit myself yet again.

Does this post remind anyone else of "Conjunction Junction" from Schoolhouse Rock?

Copyright © Michael A. Burstein
Tags: roberts-rules, writing-advice
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