Deleting 'And' at the Beginning of Sentences*

Any discussion about starting sentences with “and” should begin by emphasizing that there’s no rule against doing so. A lot of people will tell you there is, but they’re misinformed. You can start a sentence with any conjunction including "and," “but,” and “so,” provided it makes sense.

I start lots of sentences with the word “and.” It’s how I think. One idea follows from the last, and the “ands” just pour out. But that’s when I’m writing. As an editor, I hack off at least nine out of 10 sentence-starting “ands” that cross my desk. And here’s why.

Especially in traditional news media, the more efficiently you can express an idea, the more professional the writing appears. Compare any school paper written by your college-age nephew to any article from a top news source and you’ll see what I mean.

“Economy of words” is favored because it’s clearer. But it’s also favored because it’s favored. A highly efficient style is a hallmark of certain big boys of the publishing world. So anything else comes off as not as good.

That's why, when you delete an “and” at the beginning of a sentence, the effect is often dramatic and immediate: The writing just seems more professional.

I do leave some sentence-starting "ands," though – the ones that, when I take them out, leave the passage somehow worse off than it was before. But those are the exception. As a rule, when I see an “and” at the beginning of a sentence, I take it out.

And so it goes.

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