Is starting a sentence with a conjunction okay?
I was asked this question recently by a client, which has prompted me to write this blog.
My answer to my client was: forget what you were taught in school about never starting a sentence with a conjunction. In the world of copywriting, it’s about getting your message across in the most effective way possible.
And anyway, starting a sentence with a conjunction is not grammatically incorrect. Primary school teachers probably discourage it to coax longer, more complex sentences out of the class.
When copywriting, or in any other type of writing, it’s fine to start a sentence with a conjunction — better even.
Kicking off a new clause with ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘so’, etc. often makes a stronger sentence.
The hard-hitting conjunction refocuses the reader’s attention, helps keep sentences shorter and keeps your copy punchy (never tire of that word!).
And if you’re still unsure, here are some examples from well-regarded writers I’ve plucked from my bookcase. As you can see, these writers do it (or did it) all the time:
‘And nobody, absolutely nobody, is exempt from such bizarrenesses, such indignities.’ – Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1985)
‘And this is why I can go no further. This is why my story is at an end. For I know my reader does not wish to be told tales as ugly as these. And please believe your storyteller when she declares that she has no wish to pen them.’ – Andrea Levy, The Long Song (2010)
‘But the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what — these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence. And they usually occur in proportion to education and rank.’ – William Zinsser, On Writing Well (1998)
And, frankly, if Zinsser started sentences with conjunctions, that’s good enough for me.
Starting a sentence with a coordinating conjunction is also less formal and more friendly. This is great when copywriting, as it helps to achieve a conversational feel.
There are seven coordinating conjunctions: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet and So, which spell out the handy (if slightly strange!) acronym FANBOYS.
So, the next time you’re writing, think: would it make my copy clearer and more powerful to pop in a full stop here and kick off the following sentence with a conjunction?
And the answer will sometimes be yes. But not all the time. And be careful not to overuse conjunctions to start sentences. Or your writing will feel mechanical and lack rhythm.
See what I mean?
I hope this blog has made you feel more confident to use conjunctions at the beginning of sentences when copywriting.
But if you don’t have the time to write and would like us to create clear, compelling copy for your company, get in touch — we’d love to hear from you.