I often find difficult to avoid those words. It'd be fine in articles, essays, etc if it was only because of the repetitiveness, there are three words or more for it, but in longer texts, like novels, it's hard for me to go on pages without thinking my sentences don't vary much in its structure.

There's always stuff to compare or make exceptions and the word but (and variants) have bothered me a lot. I wanted to find an alternative structure for sentences that don't require "but" in it.

How can I reconstruct sentences like these so they won't look like there's something missing if I don't put a but there?

"He shook his head even though the room was dark and she couldn't see him"

"He tried to call, but it was too late."

  • "He shook his head, forgetting the room was dark and she couldn't see him."
    – Billy
    Jul 9, 2018 at 4:44
  • "It was too late. He tried to call anyway."
    – Billy
    Jul 9, 2018 at 4:44
  • 5
    I'm not exactly sure why you want to avoid using "but." There are only seven coordinating conjunctions (and, but, yet, or, nor, for, so). Next to "and," "but" is probably the biggest one. It's an extremely common word. I really don't know where your sensitivity to its overuse by you is coming from, but I have a feeling it's unwarranted.
    – Billy
    Jul 9, 2018 at 4:47
  • To avoid a negative-polarity connecting word, restructure your intent so that you don't juxtapose opposites.
    – Lawrence
    Jul 9, 2018 at 6:07
  • The Q belongs on Writing
    – Kris
    Jul 23, 2018 at 8:57

2 Answers 2


Make a statement rather than saying why the action was negated.

The room was too dark for her to see him shake his head.

She could not see him shake his head in the dark room.

He made his call too late.

He called too late.


Sometimes if the negation is strong enough you can just juxtapose the sentences without needing a negating conjunction or preposition, e.g.

He tried to call. It was too late.

You can also do situation-specific rewordings, like Billy's suggestions above using "forgetting" and "anyway".

Like Billy, though, I think you're probably more concerned about this than is necessary. It's more important to vary the basic cadence of your sentence than to try to avoid common words. By that I mean you might want to try to avoid having lots and lots of sentences in a row that are all in the structure "clause, conjunction clause", but you don't have to worry about overusing the word 'but' or 'although' etc. Psychologically, it's easier to read clear sentences with simple words. You want to avoid elegant variation.

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