In business writing classes I often hear questions like these:
My boss says never to use a comma with and. Is that correct?
My manager says never to start a sentence with but. Is she right?
Our newsletter editor says never to start a sentence with however. Is that a rule?
I hear so many so-called rules and nevers. Where do they come from? No one knows for certain. That is why I counsel people this way:
Ask your managers (bosses, editors, etc.) to cite their references please.
It’s not enough for the boss to say “I learned it this way.” The rules have changed, and many times our bosses’ teachers (and our own) were simply wrong.
If you work with someone who has a rule that seems odd or a never that you question, simply ask the person to cite his or her references. If a style guide can’t be produced that supports the “rule,” then can’t we safely ignore or reject it?
To help your manager break free of slavishly following old-fashioned or incorrect rules, try a conversation like this one:
Your manager: I changed this sentence. It’s incorrect to start a sentence with and.
You: That’s fine with me. I want to be sure that I am following all the latest rules, though, and I checked The Gregg Reference Manual. It said that starting a sentence with and can be effective if it is not overused. Which reference book says it is incorrect? [Then hold your breath.]
It’s another thing, of course, if your manager simply doesn’t like to begin sentences with and. If it is simply a preference, meet your reader’s needs.
I’ve written about the questions I used to start this post (above). Check out these entries:
Can “And” or “But” Start a Sentence? (includes however)