Little diddy encountered in reading most anywhere: And tell me if I'm wrong, but when a sentence is started with the word "But," there should be no comma after it if no other comma is present in the sentence, as when setting it off with an adverbial phrase, etc.

Just cleaning the cobwebs today.

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I hate beginning a sentence with "but." I know it's something teachers drill into students to encourage them to write more complex sentences. I guess that's the one bit of grammar they taught me that stuck. (It figures.)

I did a quick online check, and you're right about comma usage. I can think of one exception in fiction, usually--bu not always--in dialog: when you want to imply a pause or a breath after "but." Example: "But, who else could have done it?"

"But" is a conjunction. Starting a sentence with it falls in the same category as starting one with "and." Normally you would expect both sentences to be linked to an earlier sentence. However, (interesting, this.) casual and colloquial English frequently breaks up compound sentences. No, I would not use a comma after "but", but clearly I do after "however."

Therefore, I agree with I.J.  But confess to a bad habit of using "But" to break long sentences down.  And I have also been known to use "And" for the same reason.

Yes. I believe, too, "however" is preceded by a semicolon and a comma comes after it. "But" in fiction, or any casual writing, I break the rules, too. The ones I know, that is. And that ain't many. I fly by the seat of my pants when it comes to the rules, learning by rote.

Is LMAO allowed on this site? If not, profuse apologies to all.  And I promise to to wash my mouth out with soap and water, before I post again.  Thank you, for bringing a broad smile to my face, tonight, Dan!

I recall ROFLMAO was very common (rolling on the floor). It seems to have disappeared.  There are no censors here and we used to have quite a few f-words floating around. The place has become very quiet. :)

Just for fun I did a digital search for "but"s in Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye (simply because I'm an admirer of his prose style) and he starts sentences with "But" often, but never uses a comma after a "but," only before one.

And IMO there's nothing wrong with staring a sentence with "And." It's just some old high school English teacher procrusteanism.

:) Nice word, procrusteanism.


The writing style for fiction and non-fiction is very different.  English teachers teach the non-fiction variety.

"English teachers teach the non-fiction variety."  

Got that right. As a freshman in the William & Mary system, my teacher(Also W & M, Phi Beta Kappa, Mortar Board, whatever, Hootie Pootie), informed me that my expressive style was unacceptable. This is the business of writing here, not the writing business, she'd said. I dropped her class and went the following semester with Dr. Joyce Sancetta, seasoned department head, inspirational, and a hell of a lot easier to please, though my grade was but a C, something to brag about then. The earlier teacher was right, of course, but she was also unacceptable to me at the time. I'm inclined to be less hard on her memory today. We probably could use more like her, holding to standards. "But" seems she spent most of every class impressing us with her ability at having created a word defining a single-seat desk with a table top, monade, manade, something, and encouraging us to be the first on our blocks to use it. It was okay for her to browbeat us about her creativity, just not okay for us to maybe do the same. I know for a long time, when trying to write, the image of this angry woman would appear before me and say, "Aht! Aht! Don't you dare!."


I am smiling as I write this, but there are enough "Buts" in this thread to fill a Simpsons' episode, where Bart is the featured family member. :)

I would refrain from starting a sentence with but, unless it is dialogue.  I know your goal is to shorten sentences but many of the best writers have run on sentences.

Run-on sentences?  Or just long sentences?  The former is grammatically wrong (though in fiction it may serve a purpose).  The second is correct and common in literary fiction. Genre writers frequently avoid long sentences because their audiences are unable to cope with them and toss the book to reach for an easier reader.


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