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My high school English teacher taught us to never start a sentence with conjunctions, but throughout the years I have seen a lot of such usage in academic writings and novels. I have also read various articles, saying that such usage is now acceptable. Is it merely a preference of style or is it grammatically wrong? Does it otherwise imply different semantics from the usage that follows a comma(,)?

For example, are the following sentences acceptable in terms of grammar/formality?

  • "The organization should have taken the blame. Or, its leader can sacrifice himself for the well-being of all."

  • "She is one of a kind – she displays high empathy on each and every strangers she meets. But, she lives in a fiction."

  • "The city is wondrous, in spite of its proximity to my hometown. And, a highly regarded culture resides there."

Thanks in advance.

marked as duplicate by tchrist, choster, Jim, FumbleFingers, Hellion Apr 9 '15 at 15:43

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Coördinating conjunctions, such as and, or and but, can be used to begin a new sentence. This was already widely accepted in Fowler's time, and probably always. There is nothing wrong with the conjunctions in your examples. In general, though, you should apply this feature of our language judiciously: do not do it in every other sentence.

However, you should not use a comma after such conjunctions the way you did. Some authors use commas there, but be prepared for some criticism; it looks very casual. The exception is when what follows is parenthetical, such as in this sentence:

But, even though I like her, I must leave now.

The clause even though I like her is marked off by commas, the first of which happens to come after but.

You can always begin a sentence with a subordinating conjunction, such as because, although, etc., provided that the subordinate clause is attached to a main clause. If you don't attach it to a main clause, it becomes less formal, which may or may not be appropriate, depending on the genre.

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    In addition to this, the OP should remember that just because a sentence can start with a conjunction does not mean it is always correct. If the two thoughts are in fact joined, a separation will not convey the intended meaning. "Tracy baked the cookies. And she ate them." versus "Tracy baked the cookies and she ate them." The first presentation implies that Tracy went above and beyond just baking the cookies (perhaps accusing her of gluttony of selfishness). The second presentation just offers two things that Tracy did. – Cord Apr 9 '15 at 2:17
  • Thanks @Cord and @Cerberus! The two together make up a complete answer to my concern. Wish I could give up-votes to both of you. :( – Thomas Hsieh Apr 9 '15 at 2:24
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I, while accepting the idea of starting conjunctions, can't quite applaud your own sentences here.

I'd say the suggested conjunctions are not optimal for the logical transitions at hand. Also, the first sentence needs a fix in terms of verb consistency. I'd suggest:

"The organization should have taken the blame. /Otherwise/If not/, its leader should have sacrificed himself for the well-being of all."

"She is one of a kind – she displays high empathy on each and every strangers she meets. Although one could say she really lives in a fiction."

"The city is wondrous, in spite of its proximity to my hometown. /To boot/Even more/Also/, a highly regarded culture resides there."

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    Thanks for the suggestions! I was actually hoping for possible revision on my sentences but thought putting this in the question would be off the topic. – Thomas Hsieh Apr 9 '15 at 2:34
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    Try goo.gl/I9b8WM – Marius Hancu Apr 9 '15 at 2:38

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