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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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    'There is always a "but" in this imperfect world.' - Anne Bronte May 3, 2011 at 23:34
  • This question isn't better suited to writers.SE? Especially since this is about style.
    – Mitch
    May 4, 2011 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. May 4, 2011 at 0:34

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"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! May 3, 2011 at 23:50
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    but man, will it ever be worth it Off to kind of a slow start there, aren't ya? May 3, 2011 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. May 3, 2011 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. May 4, 2011 at 0:08
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    @reaper_unique -- ha, the second time in an hour I had to translate something into Dutch (doch is the word you are dodging, I take it). Just a little bit ago, I was recounting a story of maliciously frightening a Dutch woman, who shrieked "Moeder!" These two words excepted, my Nederlandse vocabulary, consists entirely of a phrase I learned to get free beer on a trip to Amsterdam that coincided with some big soccer game, Hup Hup Holland. Ping me if I can help with the English part of your blog. Dec 29, 2017 at 0:09
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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. May 4, 2011 at 4:20
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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? May 3, 2011 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? May 3, 2011 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. May 3, 2011 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. May 3, 2011 at 23:35
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Use : Although, nevertheless, other than, except, excluding, save for, however...

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Would using "yet" work for you?

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