Is it correct to use with at the beginning of a sentence?

Here's an example sentence:

With the development of the economy, living standards improved.

To my eyes this looks unnatural; I would rewrite it thus:

Living standards have improved as a result of economic development.

I think it sounds better because, as I understand it, in English it is more natural to put the result at the beginning of the sentence, and then the contributing factors or background information after that. But I am not 100% sure.

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    Just as an aside, there are no rules saying "You can't start an English sentence with insert word". None at all. Languages don't work that way, and certainly English doesn't. Language is not just a big bag of words. – John Lawler May 8 '13 at 17:06

There's nothing grammatically wrong with that construction. In fact it's quite common. It's an example of a dependent clause. You can use any subordinating conjunctions in this way.

However, I will agree that it sounds a bit odd for other reasons. The development of the economy speaks of the development almost as if it was a single event. Personally, I'd write it like this:

With the developing economy, living standards improved.

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    Yes - the grammar's fine either way, but I prefer 'as a result of economic development' to 'with the development of the economy' on semantic grounds. – Edwin Ashworth May 8 '13 at 7:55
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    Could you elaborate? – user43898 May 9 '13 at 13:25

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