On starting sentences with ‘And’

Children’s author Joanna Nadin received this letter from one of her readers.

Isabella Rhodes’ letter to Joanna Nadin

Here’s Joanna’s reply.

Joanna Nadin’s reply to Isabella Rhodes

Lovely.

Joanna regularly talks to pupils in primary schools, and it was on the TES website where she mentioned a thing the schools have — “wow words.”

“Instead of saying something’s ‘big’, you say it’s ‘gargantuan’. Instead of saying something’s ‘good’, you say it’s ‘magnificent’.

“Obviously, there are times when this is appropriate. [But] there are times when it makes your writing read like it’s been fed through a thesaurus machine.

“I spend all my time taking wow words out of students’ writing, because they’re ugly most of the time. It’s a focus on the rules, rather than on the story.”

And on that note, here’s a relevant piece by writer Anne Rooney on the enforcement of wow words — a topic in The Guardian last year.

Writing this post reminded me of Ken Robinson’s brilliant TED talk from 2006 that asked, Do schools kill creativity? Well worth (re)watching.

Via @inkcopywriters.

12 responses

  1. Gosh, I start sentences with ‘and’ all the time, verbally and in writing. I spent my professional career writing technical procedures, requiring extremely precise grammar, language, and punctuation. I wrote fiction in my offtime and now in my retirement, and I like being able to write the way I want to. Many times that means a stream of consciousness as a character, thinking to themselves or in dialogue. I agree, when you’re in school or at a job, learn the rules and follow them. But when you are writing or speaking your own way, there are no rules. I follow spelling simply to make it easier for someone to search and for them to look unfamiliar words up in a dictionary. I once had a professional writer critique a story of mine by saying (with clear disdain) “Nobody talks like that!” I thought that was odd because they talked like I did, and like people I knew. He was a Canadian city dweller, though, and I was from rural south Texas. Those reading it from my target audience loved it and didn’t mention anything about the dialogue. So I don’t worry about the rules. I just worry about the story.

  2. Working in Academia and as a student advisor straddles the worlds of students and faculty. Being a professional on paper/electronically and being colloquial when conversing with millennials and texting them in their own language, b\c yolo. LOL . It is a breath of fresh air to read and to be able to write something other than APA, OMG, and what version are we on meow.

    I enjoyed reading this, but I do have to get back to editing and enforcing my disdain for passive voice and the proper use of fanboys…

  3. The following is a quote from Finding Forrester, a wonderful movie for the aspiring author, starring Sean Connery and Rob Brown:

    “Well the risk is doing it too much. It’s a distraction. And it could give your piece a run-on feeling. But for the most part, the rule on using ‘and’ or ‘but’ at the start of a sentence is pretty shaky. Even though it’s still taught by too many professors. Some of the best writers have ignored that rule for years…”

  4. I was reminded of that TED talk as well. Since watching it a while ago I’ve kept in mind that breaking the rules is definitely the best way to go about life (most of the time). Especially when it comes to design, the rules are just a guideline, it’s more fun to use them to help you break them!

  5. Good on the kid for noticing and having the confidence to speak up! A great post that made me smile very much!

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