Can “And” or “But” Start a Sentence?

In our business writing classes, people often want an answer to this burning question:

Is it acceptable to begin a sentence with the word and or but?

The answer is yes. It is perfectly acceptable to start sentences with the conjunctions and and but. However, it is slightly informal. If formality is your goal, choose more formal language.

Informal:

But we hope to write an agreement today.
(no comma needed after but)

Formal:

However, we look forward to writing an agreement today.
Nevertheless, we look forward to completing the agreement today.

Informal:

And Clare knows how to write a good report.
(no comma needed after and)

Formal:

In addition, Clare is skilled in writing reports.
Furthermore, Clare is a skillful report writer.

There’s one rule you do have to follow: Meet your reader’s needs. For example, if your supervisor (or your supervisor’s supervisor) doesn’t approve of beginning a sentence with a conjunction, avoid it. After all, he or she is one of your most influential readers.

But here’s an alternative: Why not bring out an excellent reference manual and try to do some supervisor development?

And if you need help, email me!

15 COMMENTS

  1. hey, i’m in the re-reading my essay, there’s a few “but”s at the start of a few sentances. but also a fair few “however”s and “nevertheless”s. do you think not using “but” overides not varying your vocab?

  2. Dan, I don’t understand your question yet. I’m having difficulty with “not using” overriding “not varying.” Can you state it another way?

    Lynn

  3. Thank you for the link. Trying to read that post, I was reminded why I am a business writer–not an academic. I could not get through more than a few sentences without longing for the Cliff’s Notes version.

  4. It’s bad style to start a sentence with “however”. You’re better off just using “but”. But if you really want to use “however”, say “we look forward, however, to writing an agreement today”.

  5. can you start a sentence with “which”, or does that make the sentence a fragment?

    ex: “which leads us back to the central issue…”

  6. Dixie, starting a sentence with “which” usually makes it a fragment if you use it the way you did. However, many questions begin with “which,” as in “Which one do you prefer?”

    Lynn

Comments are closed.