Thursday, 2 April 2015

But and the Scary Green Line

Whenever I try to begin a sentence with the word ‘but’, my word grammar check shows a green squiggly line beneath it. It screams at me that I have committed a grave grammatical error.
The reason is because the word ‘But’ along with And, Yet, Or, For, Nor and So are the seven coordinating conjunctions.  They are used to join words, phrases, and clauses. So beginning a sentence with ‘But’ is wrong grammatically.

However, we find its presence everywhere. You can find this so called error in classics, textbooks, business brochures and in almost every contemporary writing. It means that it is okay then to use ‘But’ to begin a sentence.

In Creative writing, ‘But’ in the beginning of a sentence is used to create more emphasis and drama in the narration.

I am not a big fan of using the word that way. I also try to minimize repeating any word while writing a creative piece. It is often necessary to do this if you don’t want to have random green squiggly lines destroying the beauty of your word document, especially if your client raises eyebrows at their presence.

Ways to avoid it:

1.       Replace it: Use the words however, while, though, nevertheless to replace the word ‘But’ in the beginning and rephrase it.
Instead of : But, I was not free.
Try using: However, I was not free.

2.       Use Comma and join the previous sentence to the current sentence that begins with But.
Instead of:  She was very brave. But she was a nuisance to the whole class.
Try using:  She was very brave, but she was a nuisance to the whole class.

3.       Use Semicolon
Instead of:  I like history. But remembering dates are so hard.
Try using:  I like history; but remembering dates are so hard.

4.       Rephrase it:
Instead of: I know it is difficult for you to understand. But I still love her.
Try Using: I know it is difficult for you to understand why I still love her.
5.     Remove it:
Instead of:  But despite all her fears, she went ahead with her plans.
Try using: Despite all her fears, she went ahead with her plans.

I guess I have given you some hints to ward off the dreaded squiggly line while beginning a sentence with a coordinating conjunction.
Have a good day folks.

This post is a part of the APRIL A-Z Challenge


  1. Now I know what to use instead of but! Like you have mentioned, most of what I write have a lot of sentences beginning with but.

  2. Yes Aathira, We all use it. It is always good to use something different than usual.

  3. Hi,
    I am sitting here laughing because as a writer, I use but sometimes at the beginning of a sentence to create tension. I too was taught in school that but, and, yet, etc had no place at the beginning of a sentence. But in storytelling it is very hard to adhere to this principle, especially when you are looking at the rhythmic flow of your story.
    I enjoyed your pointing out some differences or other ways.
    Very nice post.
    Visiting from the A to Z Blog Challenge 2015
    Patricia at Everything Must Change


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