Depending on the type of writing you are doing, it may or may not be appropriate to use “and” to begin a sentence. Appropriateness often depends on the genre since fiction writing and business correspondence will have different rules and the sentence prior. Still, how do you avoid starting a sentence with “and”?
It is not favorable to begin a sentence with and, although it is not technically incorrect. The function of the word “and” is to join groups of words or phrases, making it an odd choice to use to begin a sentence. Various techniques to avoid its use include using alternative transition words, combining shorter clauses and sentences, and simply doing away with the word altogether if the context makes sense. It is essential to determine whether or not the sentence is an exception to the general notion that you should not use “and” to begin a sentence.
This article will cover the nuances of starting a sentence with “and,” or any conjunction, for that matter. We will also consider those cases where it may be appropriate and in which cases it would be better to find an alternative.
Is It Grammatically Correct to Start a Sentence With “And”?
To understand where and how we can use the word “and,” we must first examine its categorization. Grammarians and lexicographers categorize “and” as a conjunction, defining it by its function as opposed to its content, as you would see in a verb or noun (source). This is why it is considered poor etiquette to begin a sentence with and.
However, there are no grammatical rules that state using “and” at the beginning of a sentence is incorrect. Therefore, although it is not favorable to overuse it and begin every sentence with “and” when another transition word (or lack of a transition word) could do, starting a sentence with a conjunction is grammatically correct.
To begin, yes, it is grammatically correct to start a sentence with “and” — no grammatical rules state that beginning a sentence with “and” is a problem.
However, one should take note that beginning a sentence with “and” does change the register, generally making the sentence much more informal. For that reason, you should avoid it in formal writing, such as business correspondence.
Finding Better Options
Another thing to watch out for is its overuse — starting sentence after sentence with “and” makes the sentences read as if they were spoken, which is something that written language often avoids doing. Below is an example of such:
I went to the store. And then I went to pick up my son from school. And then I cooked him lunch. And then I took him to the movies.
So how can we replace this repetitive “and”? Instead, try using other transition words and combining the phrases into a list. A good way to do this would be to use a construction like “First… then… finally…” or anything that allows you to tell the story in chronological order without the use of “and” (source).
First, I went to the store. Then, I went to pick up my son from school, cooked him lunch, and took him to the movies.
That being said, there is also a way to write this while keeping the “and” at the beginning of the sentence — you’ll just need to select this placement carefully to be most productive.
Today, I went to the store, then picked up my son from school and cooked him lunch. And then I took him to the movies.
Introducing “and” at the beginning of a sentence can allow for additional emphasis! If you’re writing a list like we have above and hoping to highlight one of the specifics, it might be beneficial to separate it from the rest of the sentence with a conjunction.
That allows the reader to easily notice that the specific item is different from the others, highlighting it and setting it apart.
Should You Start a Sentence With “And”?
The answer here is similarly complicated — should is a word heavily dependent on the situation for a clear answer. What kind of writing are you doing? How does the sentence interact with the other sentences surrounding it? Is there a particular point you are trying to make?
A variety of factors go into deciding whether or not it is effective to use a contested idea such as this one, and we must examine them thoughtfully to come to a satisfying conclusion.
As we outlined before, the “should” heavily depends on the context and the situation you are writing in. For example, are you writing to an employer, or are you writing a journal entry? Formality and style are the main things to consider when determining whether or not you can begin the sentence with “and.”
Something else to consider is the content of the previous sentence — would this new sentence make sense if you took the period away and left the “and” to bind the clauses together?
Here are a few examples:
- There was a loud crash. And a lady had a stroller.
The above sentences don’t make sense — not because the “and” at the beginning of the second sentence is grammatically incorrect or that we shouldn’t place it there, but rather because the two sentences wouldn’t make sense even if they were connected, as such:
- There was a loud crash, and a lady had a stroller.
Either way, because the content is unrelated, using “and” as a conjunction serves no productive purpose. However, if the sentences were related, it would make more sense to use this kind of construction.
- There was a loud crash, and a baby in a stroller started to cry.
- There was a loud crash. And a baby in a stroller started to cry.
Since these two sentences are related and we can use them in one complete sentence, there is little issue in breaking them up into two.
However, be careful when employing this technique that you do not create sentence fragments instead. When listing things and trying to separate that list into multiple sentences, this is a particularly easy mistake to make.
Many English teachers tell us not to use “and” at the beginning of a sentence from a young age, but this isn’t actually always the case. It depends on how you use it and in what situations.
However, a good practice to follow might be that if you are unsure whether or not it would work to use “and” at the beginning of a sentence in a particular case, it is likely better to avoid it due to potential complications, such as incomplete sentences (source).
Is Starting a Sentence With “and” Bad?
To begin, we want to examine what “bad” writing is. Is using “and” to begin a sentence informal? Yes. However, is it a function that we use and that a variety of professionals with good command of the English language use? Yes.
Again, this particular question is all about context. When in doubt, ask yourself, “Am I certain that using a conjunction at the beginning of this sentence is necessary and does not confuse the reader?” If you are hesitant to answer that question with a “yes,” then chances are you should replace the “and” with something else.
So what can you replace the “and” with? The easiest way to move around the urge to use “and” to start a sentence would be to simply not use it at all. There are very few instances in which the “and” is necessary, and it otherwise acts mostly as a stylistic choice, which is why it is most prevalent in creative writing.
However, if you’d like to use some form of transition word so that the sentence does not start too directly, here are a few options that may work:
- As well
- In addition
It would help to brush up on your transition words to be able to employ a variety of them; each transition word has its discrete meanings and nuances, which also makes it easier to find one that more carefully fits into the sentence you’re constructing.
For more on transitional phrases, you may wish to read “With That Being Said: Meaning and Use of This Common Phrase.”
The same goes for other sorts of conjunctions. The validity of their use at the beginning of a sentence depends on the context in which we place them and their frequency.
However, you can also replace them with other transition words. In the examples below, note how the register changes as we replace the conjunction with a heftier transition word (source).
|There were fish. And there were sharks.||There were fish. Also, there were sharks.|
|There were fish. But there were no sharks.||There were fish. However, there were no sharks.|
|There were fish. So there must have been sharks.||There were fish. Therefore, there must have been sharks.|
Is Starting a Sentence With “and” Wrong?
Grammatically, likely not. Of course, a few exceptions exist, but most of them have to do with the surrounding clauses. The sentence that you write before the “and” is equally as important as the one that comes after in determining whether the writing is grammatically correct.
While it isn’t wrong, most of the time, the sentence sounds better when combined with the sentence prior:
- She went to the store. And she bought some socks.
- She went to the store and bought some socks.
However, with some context and room for creativity, this might be okay as well:
She went to the store to buy some socks. And although she could not buy any socks, she found a beautiful hair clip she bought instead.
With the added content and the lean towards a creative narrative, using “and” at the beginning of a sentence is totally acceptable!
Creative writing also has a more loose set of rules since you have to follow no narratives of formality. When writing a story, poem, or script, using “and” at the beginning of a sentence becomes even more common.
The same goes for any other sorts of conjunctions — there are no grammatical rules that explicitly state any issues with beginning a sentence with “and,” or any other conjunction. The main reason writers avoid these types of sentence beginnings is that they often sound very informal, as if they’re speaking instead of writing.
Grammar in Creative Genres
Grammar is often a contested subject in more creative genres, such as fiction and poetry. Although authors follow grammatical rules more often than not for a sense of clarity and cohesion, these genres of writing do not rely on straightforward, direct text.
Instead, they often employ alternative methods to create a unique style of writing. In more creative genres, most of the issues we’ve mentioned in this article are not issues at all — incomplete sentences, fragments, and register are rarely important enough to avoid.
So how does one add information and context to a sentence in a creative piece that begins with a conjunction? Something that may work is pairing the conjunction with a more powerful transition word to create a more nuanced shift. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
You might also want to study the concept of emphasis and use shorter sentences that begin with conjunctions to highlight specific points.
Most native English students learned from a young age to avoid using “and” at the beginning of a sentence, or any other conjunction, for that matter.
However, this is a myth perpetuated by many public school educators because it is difficult to explain why sometimes using a conjunction to begin a sentence sounds awkward and incorrect and why sometimes it works. This isn’t easy because it’s related to the seemingly intangible properties of register and flow.
If you would like to start a sentence with “and,” go through a mental checklist to see if there are any blaring problems: Would the sentences make sense if you combined them into one? Am I writing something that requires a high register (formality)? Are there any alternatives I can use that would make more sense?
After going through the checklist, take stock of the context and make an informed decision about whether or not this might be a good place to start a sentence with a conjunction. If not, simply employ one of the alternatives — transition words are abundant in English, and surely one of them will fit.