This excerpt from Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Random House copy chief Benjamin Dreyer takes aim at three long-held fiats about writing.
[Editor’s note: To uphold the integrity and flavor of the original, and because we’re magnanimous as all get-out, we’re eschewing AP and Ragan in-house style guidelines in favor of Random House style. Just this once, though.]
1. Never begin a sentence with “and” or “but.”
No, do begin a sentence with “And” or “But,” if it strikes your fancy to do so. Great writers do it all the time. As do even not necessarily great writers, like the person who has, so far in this book, done it a few times and intends to do it a lot more.
But soft, as they used to say, here comes a caveat:
An “And” or a “But” (or a “For” or an “Or” or a “However” or a “Because,” to cite four other sentence starters one is often warned against) is not always the strongest beginning for a sentence, and making a relentless habit of using any of them palls quickly. You may find that you don’t need that “And” at all. You may find that your “And” or “But” sentence might easily attach to its predecessor sentence with either a comma or a semicolon. Take a good look, and give it a good think.*
*As a copy editor, I’m always on my guard for monotonous repetition, whether it’s of a pet word—all writers have pet words—or a
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