Write Better. Right Now.

Sentence Starters

Sentence Starters

As writers, we want to mix up our sentence structures—it makes our writing livelier and more interesting than if every sentence starts the same way. But we have to watch out for a common pitfall with sentence construction: starting sentences with an initial conjunction.

Initial conjunctions are when you start your sentences with a conjunction, such as And, But, Or, For, So, Yet, or Because. While modern language rules say it’s perfectly acceptable to start with an initial conjunction, doing it too frequently can quickly become annoying to the reader. AutoCrit helps you determine how often you’re using those initial conjunctions.

Initial conjunctions in your manuscript

Here’s a tip that might surprise you: It’s grammatically acceptable to start your sentence with a conjunction—you know, words like but, so, yet, or, nor, for, and because.

That’s right: Your junior-year English teacher was wrong.

Starting with a conjunction is technically correct.  The old rules of not starting with a conjunction are outdated, and modern language finds this approach perfectly acceptable.

However, it can get annoying if you do it too frequently, so it’s still something to do sparingly. And that’s why the AutoCrit helps you see how often you’re doing it. If too many sentences start with a conjunction, your prose will quickly grate on your reader like nails on a chalkboard.

For example:

But Sammy wasn’t about to rush home. So what if he was late? And so what if Jennifer was angry? Because the truth was, he was a little sick of Jennifer. So tired of her nagging. He didn’t want to hear about her annoying boss. Or listen to that cheesy pop music she loved. Or spend his nights watching bad reality TV because she just had to find out who got voted off the island.

Grrrr. See how fast it gets annoying?

The thing about starting with a conjunction is that in most cases, the conjunction adds nothing.  It can easily be dropped to make the prose tighter:

Sammy wasn’t going to rush. So what if he was late and Jennifer was angry? The truth was, he was a little sick of Jennifer and tired of her nagging.


The exception to the rule

Repeatedly starting with a conjunction can work, as long as you want that sentence or conjunction to stand out.  For instance, if you have a neurotic character in your book, consider starting many of her thoughts with but and and to highlight her perpetual state of anxiety. Here’s what that would look like:

Jane was tempted to skip work and spend the morning at the beach. But what if someone found out? And told her boss? And what if she got sunburned—how would she hide that at work tomorrow? But then, she could wear sunscreen and stay under the umbrella. But what would be the point of going to the beach at all if she couldn’t enjoy the sun? And hadn’t she promised herself she would try to have more fun?


The bottom line

It is perfectly acceptable to start a sentence with a conjunction—once in a while. As with all things in life, just don’t do it so much it becomes annoying.

Related areas to look for in your manuscript

If AutoCrit shows that you have a tendency to start your sentences with too many initial conjunctions, you may need to take a closer look at your sentence structures throughout your manuscript. Sometimes we fall into the same patterns as we write—always starting with an initial conjunction, or always starting with a dependent clause, or always writing short, choppy sentences. Good writing has a rhythm, and that rhythm only works if sentences vary in length and style.

You can check this on your own—or you can get help from AutoCrit. The Sentence Variation Analysis visually represents the length of each sentence in your manuscript. It’s a quick and easy way to “see” the variation and rhythm of your prose. And the Initial Pronoun and Names Analysis helps you see where you may be starting too many of your sentences with a pronoun or a character’s name.

Now that’s magic.

Write better. Right now.