1. rhsexton
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    rhsexton Member

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    Starting Sentences

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by rhsexton, Apr 29, 2011.

    I've been researching the internet, trying to better understand the use of conjunctions as the start of a sentence. In some cases it works wonderfully, and in others it shouldn't be used at all. Below is my example of the problem I'm running into...

    I had seen a lot of auras over the last six years, even more now that I had moved to the city, but I had never seen an aura that glowed as brightly as Rachel's. But then I remembered remembered the aura I saw last night in the alley and how it glowed with twinkling lights instead of a solid source.

    Now, the question I have is the But then at the start of the second sentence. The point was to separate the two thoughts, hence the period, and express a difference by using But. I suppose the then was meant to help separate the thoughts by time as well. I guess the question I have is, in what ways could I improve this?
     
  2. -oz
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    -oz Active Member

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    I have a personal vendetta against using conjunctions to start sentences. Nearly every single time they're used to start a sentence, it's unnecessary. Here's how I would word your problem sentence:

    I had seen a lot of auras over the last six years, even more now that I had moved to the city, but I had never seen an aura that glowed as brightly as Rachel's. I then remembered the aura I saw last night in the alley, how it glowed with twinkling lights instead of a solid source.

    Writing this out, it seems like it's more of a data dump than anything. Granted, I'm missing the context of the two sentences, but it might flow slightly better if you spaced it out within a paragraph.

    Just my four cents...have fun!
     
  3. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just saying "I remembered" would be fine as an opening. The use of "Then" bugs me too. :p More than starting sentences with conjunctions. "Then" should be used sparingly and only when it's absolutely needed to convey the order of things. Actions presented in a narrative pretty much are assumed to all be following an "and then and then and then" pattern, unless specifically stated otherwise. Almost every action in a novel could have "then" before it if the writer wanted. It's easy to use as a junk word to fill space or pad out the flow of a sentence but there are better ways to do it and much less annoying words. :p
     
  4. lameri
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    lameri Senior Member

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    Probably you've seen it, but just in case:
    http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/conjunctions.htm
    It talks both about "then" and about starting a sentence with a conjunction.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you can change the first 'but' to 'though' and keep the second, if you want...
     
  6. Earlychop
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    Earlychop Member

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    Using conjunctions at the start of a new sentence is usually frowned upon, but only by old-school English teachers. Look at published literature, you will see it them used occasionally. Some argue that if you can change your sentence in order to avoid doing so, then you should. I argue that if you really want to start with a conjunction for effect you can. You might also want to consider using a hyphen, as this is an established way to stop a sentence short - and then allow it to continue. Viola!
     
  7. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    I don't like starting sentences with conjuctions. (Although I do it on the forum quite a bit, lol) I also don't like "Then he" or "He then". Personally it irritates me. I will use both freely if my character is speaking and it's a quirk that my character has. I find that acceptable. Of course that's just my opinion. As for your sentences we start with this:

    Now if it was me, I would change it to (and mind you this is complete specualtion because I have no idea about anything in your story) :

    I added some type of action because it did feel a little info dumpy, but it was only two sentences, so I could be completely wrong on that. I also ended with and... because it feels like there should be more there and I don't know anything about it so I'm incapable of filling it in. If it were me? I wanna know how he feels about those twinkling lights after that and...

    Just my take on it. Feel free to ignore :D
     
  8. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Oooh, an editing exercise.

    Still don't like the repeated 'but' grammar construction, so would probably redo the entire first sentence. That's what I'd do trying to keep as much of the spirit of the grammatical construction in tact.

    See no problem starting sentences with conjunctions in fiction, as you're still conjunctionizing ideas and stuff.

    edit: took out the whole bit about remembering, as unless it's a time-warping main character, the 'I'd seen' indicates fully it's a remembrance.
     
  9. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    I would do it in dialog but never in narration. It sounds too much like disjointed thoughts to me. It like saying UM when you speak. I might do it like...

    He ran to the store...and, the store exploded when he approached.

    But that is not really starting a sentence. It works great in dialog though...

    "You can do something with this gadget." John said with a smile. "And, look it comes with batteries included."

    Just my two cents.
     
  10. JMTweedie
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    JMTweedie Senior Member

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    I see writing as art, I think it's okay to bend the rules a bit.

    If all writers stuck to rigid rules, a lot of the books out there today wouldn't be published.

    If it flows and sounds good, then it is good.
     
  11. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    The opening describes the main character thinking back on events, instead of describing the actual events. I think that's why you feel a need for conjunctions - words like "but" and "then" are used to order events and facts logically in the character's (and the reader's) mind. There's less need for that when you describe actual physical events, since the reader can assume they unfold in the order you describe them. I also think describing the actual events makes the writing feel more alive - more show and less tell.
     
  12. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Most notably in the King James Bible (quite a lot), which might not be a style you would want to emulate (except for special effect) but which should be enough to get those old-school English teachers to change the subject. As other's have said, there isn't really any rule against it. Pedants have invented and tried to impose such a rule, but it's never taken. The only question you need to ask is whether it's the most effective way to express what you want to express.
     
  13. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you for saying that. There are many cases where I feel starting starting with a conjunction is the best choice. (In fact, I use it a lot when writing creation stories, which often use a language similar to religious texts.)
     
  14. Earlychop
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    Earlychop Member

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    lol my favourite is. And.

    :p It's slightly less jarring than most other conjunctions used at the beginning of a sentence but then hey, like many have said, use what you want. Especially if it sound right when read with your inner voice.
     
  15. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    The majority of modern published fiction writers prove the use a conjunction to begin a sentence has become an acceptable practice. (in small doses)

    Keep in mind that many were brow beat into Strunk and White submission. You could read some back-lash from the rigid iron fisted types that believe no rule was meant to be broken. Starting sentences with conjunctions and the use of sentence fragments could be veiwed as rebellion ..ya dig ?
     
  16. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    The only thing I disagree with in that is the "has become". It has been correct English for as long as the English language has been an identifiable entity.
     
  17. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    Please take a review here, pointing to your use of a sentence starting with a but as an indication of your sucki-ness (and of course) the reviewers’ greatness with a grain of salt. To fulfill the requirements to review in order to post, it would be easy to scan work looking for a conjunction without reading the piece in earnest
     
  18. Jessica_312
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    Jessica_312 Contributing Member

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    I agree with this, I don't think there's anything wrong with bending the rules here and there
     

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