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I seem to have a habit of using a lot of sentences that involve the word "but": "I haven't tried it yet, but I think it should work"; "I could easily resort to chicken, but I want to see how far I can get with alligator" etc..

It's probably deeply rooted in my style of thought, but (there I go again) I'm starting to get bored of seeing myself use this structure so often. Is there anything I can do to break free?

I know one way is to use "though" or "although", as in "Although I could easily resort to chicken, I want to see...". Anything else I could do to diversify my sentences a little?

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1  
'There is always a "but" in this imperfect world.' - Anne Bronte –  Grant Thomas May 3 '11 at 23:34
    
This question isn't better suited to writers.SE? Especially since this is about style. –  Mitch May 4 '11 at 0:32
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Oh is it? I sort of saw the title "English Language & Usage" and figured it'd fit in here. –  Rei Miyasaka May 4 '11 at 0:34

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

"But" expresses ideas in opposition, not why they are in opposition, and just substituting though, although, and similar words won't change that. Your sentence could be recast as

Before resorting to chicken, I want to see how far I can get with alligator

(I might end up cooking the chicken) or

Though there was chicken in the fridge, I had to try the 'gator.

(Both meats are available, and I'm ignoring the more common one.)

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Awesome, that's definitely my ticket out of this but-hell. It'll take me quite a bit of practice before I can write (and think) like that, but man, will it ever be worth it. Thanks! –  Rei Miyasaka May 3 '11 at 23:50
1  
but man, will it ever be worth it Off to kind of a slow start there, aren't ya? –  Malvolio May 3 '11 at 23:52
    
Yep :( The real challenge I think is in being conscious of the reason for the "but" half of the sentence. Otherwise I can't really put it in words. It'll take a while. –  Rei Miyasaka May 3 '11 at 23:55
    
Just yanking your chain. "But worth it" is such a fixed expression in English I doubt you'd really be able to recast it; you'd have to dodge it completely. –  Malvolio May 4 '11 at 0:08
    
Hah, I'm sure there's nothing wrong with using it occasionally. I just don't like that it's become such a habit for me. –  Rei Miyasaka May 4 '11 at 0:15

I think the reason for the use of "but", or "though" etc., is that the sample phrases you gave all start with a statement and are then qualified or evaluated, as if you are defending or excusing or justifying a decision. You may try phrases where you don't justify the action you are taking.

I haven't tried it yet, but I think it should work.

compared to

This should work. I'll try it soon.

or

It's probably deeply rooted in my style of thought, but I'm starting to get bored of seeing myself use this structure so often.

compared to

I'm starting to get bored of seeing myself using 'but' all the time. I wonder why I use it so much. It must be deeply rooted in my style of thought.

So, when you come across a "but" in your writing, try to put the "but" phrase at the beginning of the sentence or make it a sentence in its own right. Then analyse what you had before the "but" and see how that relates to the statement and how it can be connected.

I want to see how far I can get with alligator. If I'm not happy with that, I can still use chicken.

No need to justify why you want to start with alligator. Be bold. You don't have to justify your decisions.

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Thanks, I think that's a good way to look at it too. It's probably an effect of my over-cautious nature. Interesting how personality seeps in where you'd least expect it to. –  Rei Miyasaka May 4 '11 at 4:20

You could try this.

"I could easily resort to chicken, however, I want to see how far I can get with alligator

or even

"Easily, I could resort to chicken, although I want to see how far I can get with alligator.

This answer still seems weak to me, I feel like I'm missing something.

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"However" works too, however, structurally it's still more or less the same. Could it be that I'm trying to fix a non-issue or something that can't be fixed to begin with? –  Rei Miyasaka May 3 '11 at 23:26
    
Okay, I seem to have misunderstood the question. I thought you were just rying to cut back on your usage of 'but'. But it seems you want to structure sentences differently. Does this sound right? –  MikeVaughan May 3 '11 at 23:29
    
Yeah. Cutting back on "but" helps a little, but (dammit!) I'm wondering if maybe there's a completely different structure that I can "convert" my sentences to. I just worry that after a while it becomes a bit tedious reading so many sentences of the same structure. It sure does get boring writing them. –  Rei Miyasaka May 3 '11 at 23:33
    
It can definitely get boring reading them, too. I think Malvolio's answer is more like what you're looking for, but I'm glad I took a shot at it. –  MikeVaughan May 3 '11 at 23:35
    
Aye, thanks for that! –  Rei Miyasaka May 3 '11 at 23:44

Use : Although, nevertheless, other than, except, excluding, save for, however...

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Would using "yet" work for you?

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