But I like doing it this way

This isn’t a rule that’s set in stone and I’m sure you can find plenty of people who will argue either side, especially online. To me, though, you should never start a sentence with the word ‘but’.

When I was a fledgling journalist I spoke to a man nearing the end of a long career as a writer and editor for many national and local papers. He gave me one piece of advice that has stuck with me over many years — “Never begin a sentence with the word ‘but'”.

Many writers have their own quirks, but he at least had a reason for this one.

“Whenever I see a sentence that begins with the word ‘but’, I immediately re-read it omitting the first word. If the meaning of the sentence hasn’t changed then I leave it out. I’ve never had to put it back in.”

I think it was probably his conviction that made me remember it so vividly. Whenever I’ve had to proofread or edit a piece of work I’ve kept his words of wisdom in mind. I’m yet to prove him wrong.

Perhaps there are times when it’s suitable — fiction and dialogue, maybe — but in factual writing there doesn’t seem to be a place for it, at least not at the start of a sentence.


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