Thursday, May 31, 2007

Grammar Myth No. 117

Many, many people were taught never to start a sentence with a conjunction. But this is wrong.

Below is a letter published in the Dallas Observer. If it's something you could have written, please take a deep breath and discard this false rule. It's fine to start sentences with conjunctions. As Strunk and White say, "An occasional loose sentence prevents the style from becoming too formal and gives the reader a certain relief":

And the Horse You Rode On

And so it goes: I have been reading the Dallas Observer basically from
its beginning issues. I have noticed a trend in the last five years or so that
makes almost any article from Bon Appetit, Texas Monthly, Dallas Observer—you
name it—excruciating because of the incredibly bad grammar used by younger
writers. With the exception of Jim Schutze, I wonder if any of your writers even
graduated from high school. As official meetings often follow Robert's Rules on
how to conduct a meeting in an orderly manner, so should journalists and
would-be journalists construct decent, readable sentences according to
fundamental grammar.

One of the biggest offenders is beginning sentences with a
conjunction—legions!!! legions of them pepper almost every article. Doesn't
ANYBODY know that a conjunction is used to link two thoughts in one sentence?

I am a college graduate, but I learned basic grammar in high school. Maybe
you should send everyone to remedial English classes. Of course it isn't just
the writers for the Observer; the ignorance is pervasive. I find it highly
embarrassing that a huge percentage of writers today are so damned ignorant.

It doesn't say much for standards of journalism, standards of education or
that anybody even gives enough of a shit to attempt to perfect the craft of

If perchance you are bewildered by my letter, perhaps you should go back to
school too, or at least talk to Jim Schutze.

P.S. I like your mag—it's just so poorly written these days.
Lisa Brown

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