Monday, October 6, 2003

And Repeat And

“And” is a great word. It’s the all-purpose glue of writing, slapping sections of a sentence together without a second thought. It’s inoffensive. Three letters long, clear in meaning and intent.

And yet.

When “And” starts off a sentence, matters change. I don’t argue for the archaic trope that no sentence should start with a conjunction. Some sentences clearly benefit from an “and” or “but” to kick them off.

Of the two conjunctions, “but” is easier to defend. It serves as a nifty way to turn a train of thought without much effort. Sure, you can overuse it. How many nifty turns can you take before getting trainsick?

But writers too often bolt on the “and” with the assumption that it automatically provides a smooth transition. It doesn’t. It seems repetitive and forced. In many of these cases, readers can make the transition by themselves.

I’m guilty too. Scan through these past entries and count the “ands.” You will find many at the beginnings of sentences. I didn’t say this was easy.

To slam it home: If an article depends on “ands” to bring the reader through it, the article needs more thoughtful transitions. If a writer constructs an article to flow smoothly and naturally from one concept to another, the “ands” can take a cigarette break.

I’ll need them later.