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Whenever I see a sentence starting with "especially," I always get the impression that this is not grammatically correct. From example:

The high water-salt ratio will not be good for you. Especially if you are dehydrated.

I feel like the two sentences should be united with punctuation, not divided.

Am I mistaken?

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2  
If you used a dash you may be able to get away with it: "Yada yada -- especially if blah blah." –  MrHen Mar 30 '11 at 18:11

8 Answers 8

up vote 12 down vote accepted
  • It is not acceptable in formal or academic writing. (Typically.)

    There are exceptions. @oosterwal, @tcovo, and @wooble give good examples of perfectly valid constructions starting with especially (or in wooble's case, starting with because).

    An example with because :

Because of the necessity of lowering their their baskets to the cave floor daily, the Pitifoo began to develop ingenious mechanisms to deploy the baskets with greater speed and less effort.

An example with especially:

Especially during the depression in the seventeenth century, when money was scarce in many countries, transactions frequently reverted to payments in kind. The Cambridge economic history of Europe edited by Sir John Harold Clapham, Eileen Power, Michael Moïssey Postan, Edwin Ernest Rich

Another :

Especially during the years of conflict between these powers, 264-248 B.C., the Jews must have suffered severely. An Introduction to the Old Testament: Chronologically Arranged By Harlan Creelman

  • It's probably acceptable in email correspondence at work, but you have to be aware of the informal tone it gives.

    Sometimes deliberate informality can be a good thing, as it gives or creates the sense of or the illusion of a closer relationship. It is more casual as well as being more informal, and this relaxation of 'formal' rules can give the correspondence the same relaxed feel.

    'But wait,' I hear you saying, 'aren't you just deliberately and strategically making a mistake if you use it like that? '

    "Especially if you use it like that?" I ask.

    'No,' you say, 'you're just mocking me. I mean that it isn't just an ugly cousin of the correct sentence structure, which you can choose to use as you please. It's actually broken. It's a solecism."

    "Absolutely not," I insist. "Definitely not." I shake my virtual head. "The machinery of language is far more flexible than you think. The rules are beaten into your noggin so that you know how sentences function. One you know these rules and how they operate, the actual syntactic and semantic mechanisms you use to communicate your thoughts can twist, bend, and stretch to fit the shape of current circumstance."

  • Among friends, it's fine, as long as one of you isn't a grammar absolutist.

  • It's certainly an acceptable formation in fiction writing, as it mirrors the actual practice that occurs in spoken English.

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+1 for the splendid conversation –  user1579 Mar 31 '11 at 16:05

I disagree with other posters here – I think the example given is grammatical. It may not be formal or good style, but it is grammatical. The second sentence under consideration (Especially if you are dehydrated.) could merely be This is especially true if you are dehydrated condensed for ease of utterance.

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4  
Absolutely. This type of elision tends to occur less in formal writing, but it's by no means absent even there. And it's positively rife in informal (but still grammatically acceptable) speech. –  FumbleFingers Mar 31 '11 at 3:09
    
I don't think it is fair to say that you disagree with the other posters here, unless it is in something other than the construction being grammatical. I see a few saying that the construction is unacceptable for various reasons, but not one explicit statement that it's ungrammatical. –  jbelacqua Mar 31 '11 at 3:12
    
@jgbelacqua Perhaps it was unfair of me to say this. In my defence, I was going on the answers that were posted at the time (although I may not have seen them all). –  J D OConal Mar 31 '11 at 7:53
    
Well, no biggie. Just being OCD. –  jbelacqua Mar 31 '11 at 21:07

Especially makes sense at the beginning of a sentence.

^I've found another case where it is acceptable.

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I'm surprised this one is getting more up-votes. (So far....) –  jbelacqua Mar 31 '11 at 3:14
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Unfortunately, "especially" belongs in quotes above. –  Amanda Mar 31 '11 at 11:57

A sentence is supposed to stand alone grammatically.

Especially if you are dehydrated.

That is a fragment, pure and simple.

I'm not even convinced that @Tcovo is correct.

Especially dehydrated hikers should stay away from foods with a high salt content.

This sentence could mean "dehydrated hikers in particular will need to heed this advice" or "hikers who are unusually dehydrated will need to heed this advice."

Especially large trucks must stay in the right lane.

This sentence could refer to trucks that are unusually large or special behavior required of all large trucks.

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I think @Tcovo is grammatically correct, but this construction is especially unclear, in part because it is uncommon to see 'especially' at the beginning of a sentence when active as an intensifier on an adjective. –  Dancrumb Mar 30 '11 at 19:51
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Just because something may be ambiguous does not mean it is ungrammatical... –  psmears Mar 30 '11 at 19:51
    
@orokusaki: Did I assert that ambiguity had anything to do with correct grammar? –  psmears Mar 30 '11 at 20:21
    
@orokusaki, ambiguity (and avoiding it) have a lot to do with correct grammar, but that doesn't mean that any ambiguous phrase is ungrammatical. –  Amanda Mar 30 '11 at 20:28
    
@psmears - sorry, misread your comment. –  orokusaki Apr 4 '11 at 0:48

I feel that the example passage is grammatically no worse than:

The high water-salt ratio will not be good for you. If you are dehydrated.

which is already of debatable grammaticality because, as in the original passage, the second 'sentence' is an isolated subordinate clause, which is not really a sentence. @oosterwal gave an example which uses a full sentence, which sounds less awkward.


Also, don't forget that 'especially' can modify an adjective, in such constructions as:

Especially large trucks must stay in the right lane.

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4  
+1 for using 'especially' to modify an adjective. –  oosterwal Mar 30 '11 at 18:08
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@orokusaki: Did you perhaps miss the word "not"? Tcovo most likely meant that they're both "not really a sentence" - since that's what's written in the answer :) As for the second example (about trucks) - why do you assert that that's not grammatical? –  psmears Mar 30 '11 at 20:30
    
@psmears - Good lord, I must have been tired when I visited this post. My apologies. –  orokusaki Apr 4 '11 at 0:51

You may use words like 'especially' or 'because' at the beginning of the sentence as long as you provide a supporting clause after it.

Because my dog had fleas, I had to make him sleep outside.

Especially when the weather report predicts rain, you should have an umbrella in your car.

In both of these examples you could change the order of the clauses so that 'because' and 'especially' appear in the middle of the sentence, following the comma.

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Good point, I'd forgotten that re-ordering. –  user1579 Mar 30 '11 at 14:36
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Because I once had an ESL student in a peer-review group tell me I couldn't use "because" at the beginning of a sentence, I'm voting +1. –  Wooble Mar 30 '11 at 19:56

Your instincts are on the money. The basic form of the sentence should be:

action/conclusion[,] [especially] if condition.

That said, this is one of those rules that you can break if you do so knowingly. Splitting the sentence in two before "especially" adds extra emphasis (as in @Ed Guiness's answer). As with most stylistic rule-breaking, you should do it sparingly; over-frequent emphasis loses its effect and makes you look like a twit.

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+1 for 'makes you look like a twit' –  atroon Mar 30 '11 at 19:58

It's not really acceptable. Especially not in formal writing.

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Or academic writing. Which is to say, your English teacher should balk at it. –  Amanda Mar 30 '11 at 17:23
    
+1 for the "especially" I missed the first time I read this. –  jbelacqua Mar 30 '11 at 20:21

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