Can you start sentence with “And”?

At school we were taught never to start sentences with “And”.

And yet newspaper journalists do it all the time. Not starting a sentence with And is one of the first so-called rules professional writers learn to break.

There’s nothing wrong with using “And” to begin a sentence or a paragraph. It is a great way to smooth the flow when you have a series of short sentences that would otherwise be too staccato for comfortable reading.

Only break this rule in moderation. Overusing “And” at the start of sentences quickly becomes boring.

As Keith Waterhouse points out in the excellent Daily Mirror Style, too many sentences starting with the word means your writing reads like the New English Bible.

I aim for only one “And” sentence start in a short piece of 300 words. For longer stories, you can get away with using it a few times – about once every 3-500 words. Control any urge to sprinkle sentences starting with “And” through your copy.

Other conjunctions

The school rule didn’t just apply to “And”, starting sentences with other conjunctions was also forbidden. As an aside, conjunctions are ‘joining’ words used to string phrases together – usually, but not always, to build more complex sentences.

There are plenty of alternative conjunctions to call on at the start of your sentences:

  • “But” is a great way to start a sentence that disagrees with the previous one.
  • “Yet” is a less-frequently used alternative.
  • “Or” is a great word for helping text flow.
  • Some people don’t like sentences to start with “However”. I would regard that as another rule worth breaking.
  • “Although” is a possibility. In practice it can be better to shorten the word to “Though” at the start of a sentence.

8 thoughts on “Can you start sentence with “And”?

  1. You speak the truth.

    When I was a full-time reporter, some little ol’ former 9th-grade English teacher marked up one of my stories and mailed it to me to show how much I did wrong. She didn’t really grasp the notion that high school comp and journalism style are different animals. It was obvious she’d never even seen an AP style manual.

    She didn’t include a return address, of course!

    • One smart thing to do would be to mail her back with an image of your impressive-looking pay cheque (or check if you’re in the US). The smarter thing would be to mail her an image of your Pulitzer prize.

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