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I'm trying to figure out the proper usage and punctuation of "but no". I think it's one of the following:

  • You figure I would have made at least one post about Arthur C. Clarke’s “2010” during 2010. But no, I missed the entire year.
  • You figure I would have made at least one post about Arthur C. Clarke’s “2010” during 2010. But, no. I missed the entire year.

Is one of those accurate, or is there a better way?

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There shouldn't be a comma between "but" and "no". Aside from that, I think it's just a matter of style. – Peter Shor Apr 22 '12 at 18:01
What @PeterShor said. – Robusto Apr 22 '12 at 18:30
What @PeterShor & Robusto said. But after leafing through a few pages of "but no I" in Google Books, I would just say a comma between "no" and "I" seems by far the most popular choice. Alternatives include a period, semicolon, dash, and exclamation mark - all of which seem acceptable to me in context. – FumbleFingers Apr 22 '12 at 20:35
@FumbleFingers - I never thought about trying to search in Google Books. I spent a little time trying to search the web. That wasn't at all fruitful. I'll remember your Google Books trick in the future. – Alan W. Smith Apr 22 '12 at 22:52
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Note that you're worrying about the correct placement of a comma in a situation which flouts the grade school rule, "do not begin a sentence with a conjunction like and or but".

What you have here is a casual narrative:

You figure I would have made at least one post about Arthur C. Clarke’s “2010” during 2010. But no. I missed the entire year.

This is not formal writing but prose. An art form. (Is it correct to paint it in watercolor, or should you use oil? Acrylic?)

Hey look, I used "An art form" as a sentence. A fragment! No predicate or anything. Oops, I made like Britney Spears and did it again.

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Nevertheless, writing a fragment as if it were a sentence is somewhat of a "big deal", so I would not waste this device on "But no". "But no" is really asking to be joined to the explanation which it introduces. – Kaz Apr 22 '12 at 18:36
Everyone here thinks there should be no comma after But. Fine. What about the first version? Comma (not period) after no? What's wrong with that? – Kris Apr 22 '12 at 18:39
I personally would prefer the comma because "But no" doesn't stand alone all that well. It's a phrase which introduces whatever follows. It's not too dissimilar from "Hey Jack, come here" versus "Hey Jack. Come here.". A period creates a dramatic effect. If you don't want that effect, don't use it. I think there is a difference if you read the two examples out loud. The period denotes a pause after a thought, which calls for a pause in speech. This is not really a matter of what is correct, but of what effect you want. – Kaz Apr 22 '12 at 18:46
@Kaz, this is for my blog. I tend to write it like I speak. Lots of official grammar mistakes. I generally avoid the starting with "But". In this case I liked the tone of it for emphasis. The example you provided with the dramatic effect of "Hey Jack. Come here." is where I was headed with this one. This answers the heart of what I was trying to accomplish. – Alan W. Smith Apr 22 '12 at 22:47

I agree with the others that it's a matter of style. My style would be not to use a comma at all and replace it with a dash. I'm not sure it's "dramatic" enough to warrant them by Grammar Girl's definition, but it's nonetheless what I would do.

You figure I would have made at least one post about Arthur C. Clarke’s “2010” during 2010. But no – I missed the entire year.

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I like that. It's a little more emphasis than I want for this one, but I'll keep it in my bag of tricks. Thanks. – Alan W. Smith Apr 22 '12 at 22:50

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