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05-27-1999, 04:26 PM
I just wrote two movie reviews on my friend Spedrick's web site. I won't plug the URL here, but you can find it in the "Interesting Websites" thread in the MPSIMS forum.

Anyway, Spedrick liked my reviews but did not like my tendency to start sentences with "but". I hear and read sentences all the time that begin with "but", so I think it's all right. But enough about what I think, what do the Teeming Millions think?

------------------
"Interested in fashion, Harmonica?"
"There were three dusters like these waiting for a train.
Inside the dusters were three men. Inside the men were
three bullets..."
--Once Upon A Time In The West

05-27-1999, 04:43 PM
But that would be bad grammer. And you should never start a sentence with a conjuction. Nor should you ever take an editor seriously.

05-27-1999, 04:43 PM
I say screw these anal retentive English majors and start your sentences with whatever word you want. As long as you get your point across, who really cares?

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You want to go one on one with The Great One?

05-27-1999, 04:56 PM
Of course it's not proper English. Starting a sentence with "but" or "and" makes it a run on sentence. But I do it occasionly anyway. It's an effective tool when writing with a conversational tone. It allows you to make a point, then soften it with a counterexample. Use it sparingly.

On the other hand, here are some grammatical mistakes that really do bug me:

it's vs. its - the first is a contraction of "it is", the second a possessive pronoun. You know which one you mean, so just spell it that way.

your vs. you're - as in "You're driving me crazy with your solecisms."

their, there, they're - as in "They're sure that there are no airbags in their car."

a lot - is two words

irregardless - is not even one

For some reason, even I confuse these things when writing e-mail. Maybe that's why it bothers me so much. Thanks for giving me a chance to vent!

05-27-1999, 05:07 PM
Can you appreciate the irony?

I'm the English major!

------------------
"Interested in fashion, Harmonica?"
"There were three dusters like these waiting for a train.
Inside the dusters were three men. Inside the men were
three bullets..."
--Once Upon A Time In The West

05-27-1999, 05:08 PM
According to a graduate-level writing course I took through work (with a prof. from the local university), it's perfectly fine to start a sentence with the word, "but." It's just one of those rules that they drum into you in grammar school, but it doesn't mean anything in the real world.

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"It's a very dangerous thing to believe in nonsense." -- James Randi

05-27-1999, 05:11 PM
My favorite pet peeves are using an apostrophe for plurals, and using quotes to show emphasis. Example:

Sale! "Fresh" apple's

05-27-1999, 05:13 PM
True story:

Lou Pinella (I don't remember who he was managing at the time) went out to argue a called third strike with an umpire. Here's the conversation...

Pinella: "Where the hell was that pitch at?"

Umpire: "Don't you know you're not supposed to end a sentence in a preposition?"

Pinella: "Ok, fine, where the hell was that pitch at, asshole?"

Ahh... baseball.


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You want to go one on one with The Great One?

05-27-1999, 05:15 PM
I heard that someone once asked Winston Churchill about ending a sentence with a preposition, and he responded, "That is the sort of pedantic nonsense up with which I shall not put!"

05-27-1999, 06:06 PM
We're getting off the original topic, but I must add my $.02.

The one common phrase that really upsets me is: "The thing is, is that..."

First of all, does one have to use the word "thing?" Can't one substitute a more appropriate noun. "The problem is..."

What really pisses me off is that second "is." What is the point of it??? Just leave it out!!! "The thing is that..." You'd be doing less work and it would
improve the sentence dramatically.

Using "but" or "and" at the beginning of a sentence is fine with me; actually it is often useful to express the idea, and is often necessary for the segue from one sentence to the next. If you connected every clause that starts with "but" or "and," you'd really have a run-on sentence.



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I don't know who first said "everyone's a critic," but I think it's a really stupid saying.

05-27-1999, 07:07 PM
As an English major you should know the difference between formal and informal writing styles. Movie reviews don't strike me as terribly formal, so I think you're allowed to bend the rules a bit.

05-27-1999, 07:19 PM
I say screw these anal retentive English majors

Speaking as one of the above-mentioned English majors, I must insist that this occur on a one-at-a-time basis and all those involved employ adequate protection.

I must also protest the use of the term "anal retentive" on the grounds that I have never used that particular part of my anatomy to retain anything of value to anyone else, and should therefore not be criticized on that basis. Should you wish to re-evaluate your choice of witty criticisms, I would suggest perhaps "pedantic" or possibly "humourless". To be strictly correct, but lacking in venom, you might wish to use "overly formal", but even one of the rectally repressive can recognize that such wording would be unsatisfying at best.

05-27-1999, 07:24 PM
Oh yeah, and Edward, it is grammatically incorrect to start a sentence with "but". Aseymayo has a point about the formal/informal language use, however I personally feel that those of us who CAN use the language properly should do so whenever possible, to set an example for those who are obviously deficient in that area. You wouldn't like to have "yeah, well you started a sentence with 'but' last week" come back at you after gently correcting someone else's grammar (or, say, use of accents in French words), would you?

05-27-1999, 07:26 PM
Not being an english major, I do know that the word BUT can be a(n):
conjunction
preposition
adverb
pronoun
noun

Thus, you can pretty much put it anywhere.

05-27-1999, 07:46 PM
Touché, Eris. I was nitpicking when I mentioned the French accents--just because I use the accents when I write the words does not mean it's unacceptable to omit them when you are writing in English. If we were writing in French (which I do not know), then it would be a grammatical mistake. As it is, busting your chops about the accents makes less sense than complaining about the buts.

Speaking of accents, it's a bigger problem in that the Anglophone media here refuses to write accents for Spanish words. It's not a big deal to write México as Mexico, but it is if you write "¡Felíz año nuevo!" as "Feliz ano nuevo!" Instead of saying "Happy New Year!" you're saying "Happy New Ass!"

------------------
"Interested in fashion, Harmonica?"
"There were three dusters like these waiting for a train.
Inside the dusters were three men. Inside the men were
three bullets..."
--Once Upon A Time In The West

05-27-1999, 07:48 PM
Oops! Felíz is wrong, but feliz is correct.

------------------
"Interested in fashion, Harmonica?"
"There were three dusters like these waiting for a train.
Inside the dusters were three men. Inside the men were
three bullets..."
--Once Upon A Time In The West

05-27-1999, 07:48 PM
But of course. No problema in casual writing styles, as has already been pointed out, and even less of a problem when speaking.

If I can add to Greg's list of things that irk me, I constantly hear people trying to "fancy" their spoken English by using the reflexive pronoun myself in place of me. E.g.:

...please don't hesitate to speak to myself directly or my assistant if you need any help...

My boss does this in meetings all the time, and then wonders why half the people in the room roll their eyes at him. I ask him "how am I supposed to speak to yourself?" but it doesn't help.

05-27-1999, 07:50 PM
Handy, I like you, but I have to say that people who read the first line in a dictionary definition of a word just to see in what categorizations that word can be placed, and then proclaim that it can be put just about anywhere, really ought to be shot.

CONTEXT, buddy. Language is all about context. You cannot put "but" just about anywhere. Read the whole definition next time.

05-27-1999, 08:09 PM
Ed, I don't think the tilde is considered an accent (even though it means accent in Spanish, boy does that hurt my case), maybe diacritical mark is more accurate? N and ñ are two different letters (they each have their own personal entries in dictionaries).

The distinction was made clear to me many years ago when I was learning Vietnamese- all of the following are considered separate letters: a, â, â (with the “hat” inverted), e, ê, i, o, ô, o (with a little squiggle that I can't find in my character map), u and u (again with the squiggle)- making 11 different vowels in all. Same with Gh, kh, ng and others being considered single consonants, even though they are made from two symbols. I imagine it's the same deal with L and LL in Spanish.

05-27-1999, 08:43 PM
You're right--ñ is a different letter than n, but my brain thinks it's the same letter with a funny mark over it and a different pronunciation. The only time I have to think of ñ, ll, rr, or ch as separate letters is when I'm looking up words in a Spanish dictionary.

------------------
"Interested in fashion, Harmonica?"
"There were three dusters like these waiting for a train.
Inside the dusters were three men. Inside the men were
three bullets..."
--Once Upon A Time In The West

05-27-1999, 10:43 PM
Can you start a sentence with "but"? The prescriptivists would say "no", because there is a prescriptive rule which says that a sentence cannot be started with a conjunction. The descriptivists would say "yes", because ordinary English speakers start sentences with "and" or "but" all the time. I'd say that if you're writing formal English it would be better to avoid starting sentences with conjunctions, since many people who read formal English (anything published, business letters and reports, etc.) are sensitive to violations of prescriptive grammar rules. In informal written English, who cares about the rules if you make yourself understood?

Postscript: two prescriptive rules I hate: the no-split-infinitives rule and the no-prepositions-at-the-end-of-the-sentence rule.

One prescriptive rule I love: the no-dangling-participles rule.

05-27-1999, 11:12 PM
As someone else pointed out, you can start a sentence with whatever the heck word you want in informal writing.

Someone else pointed out the difference between prescriptive and descriptive grammar.

So. When you write your dissertation, I suggest you do not begin any sentences with and. Ditto for the introduction letter when you apply for your first job. In your movie reviews, do whatever you want. If you need a role model, pick up a copy of the Modern Library's edition of The Collected Works of Dorothy Parker-- the new one, with the selections from "Constant Reader."

But. No matter what anyone says, or how informal your tone when you write, ALWAYS follow the rules of punctuation. It is writing, after all, and no matter how "conversational," the affect of conversation is still an affect, an illusion.

In other words, keep the bloody commas INSIDE THE QUOTATION MARKS.

Grrrr.



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--Rowan

05-27-1999, 11:24 PM
But we digress..........

05-28-1999, 04:11 PM
Of course it's not proper English. Starting a sentence with "but" or "and" makes it a run on sentence.

It does not make it a run-on sentence. It makes it a *sentence fragment*, the exact opposite. A run on sentence is of the form "We must not write run-on sentences they sound stupid".

05-28-1999, 05:01 PM
Really? I could have sworn they were run on sentences. Oh, well. Live and learn! I'm still not bad for a Math/CS major.

BTW Opus, the Vietnamese dictionary I have considers the two-letter combinations separately only when they begin a word. For example, "nguyen" comes after "nui", because 'ng' comes after 'n'. When they are at the end of a word or at the beginning of a second "morpheme" of the word, they are alphabatized as if they were two separate letters. (I can't think of a good example right now, but "non nguyen" would come before "non nui", if it were a word that is.) That inconsistency bugs the heck out of me. The Vietnamese I know also have trouble with it.

05-28-1999, 06:28 PM
Well, load your gun then Eris.

If a person is not going to quote the sentence they are talking about but expect us to go look for it on the net buried in an article somewhere [And of which sentences they speak we shall not know exactly], I'd say use the word BUT just about anywhere.

05-28-1999, 07:56 PM
Oh fer chrissakes...

From the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, Ninth Edition:

butconj., prep.,adv.,pron.,n.,& v.● conj.1anevertheless, however (tried hard but did not succeed; I am old, but I am not weak)b on the other hand; on the contrary (I am old but you are young) 2 (prec. by can etc.; in neg. or interrog.) except, other than, otherwise than (cannot choose but do it; what could we do but run?). 3 without the result that (it never rains but it pours). 4 prefixing an interruption to the speaker's train of thought (the weather is ideal - but is that cloud on the horizon?). ● prep. except; apart from; other than (everyone wnet but me; nothing but trouble). ●adv. 1 only; no more than;only just (we can but try; is but a child; had but arrived; did it but once). 2 introducing emphatic repetition; definitely (wanted to see nobody, but nobody). 3 Austral., NZ, & Sc. though, however (didn't like it, but). ● rel. pron. who not; that not (there is not a man but feels pity). ● n. an objection (ifs and buts). ● v.tr.(in phr. but me no buts) do not raise objections.
□ but for without the help or hindrance etc. of (but for you I'd be rich by now). but one(or two etc.) excluding one (or two etc.) from the number (next door but one; last but one). but that(prec. by neg.)that (I don't deny but that it's true). but that(or colloq. what)other than that; except that (who knows but that it is true?). but then (or yet) however, on the other hand (I won, but then the others were beginners).
[Old English be-ūtan, būtan, būta 'outside, without']

Ok, that's the last time I do that with all the italics etc.

My point is, it's not possible to construct a grammatically correct sentence starting with "but" unless it's an artificial construction like those you used to lose marks for in English class:

"But" is a word with which you are not supposed to begin sentences.

The only possible exception as noted above is the use of "but" is as a preposition *combined with "for"*:

But for this MB, I'd get a lot of work done.

This sounds awkward and is not used very frequently in modern English.

Bleh.

05-28-1999, 11:38 PM
Eris:

Get a grip. English is highly idiomatic.

I am an editor and so feel I have some right to address this.

Beginning a sentence with "and" or "but" is no big deal, unless you do it so often that it distracts the reader. I repeat, English is highly idiomatic.

To me, there are only two hard-and-fast rules of English: be clear, and don't let it be clunky.

Relax, already.

And when in doubt, consult Evans and Evans, "A Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage." The OED is a great source, but it is British English. Get a grip.

05-29-1999, 12:04 AM
I think "but" could be considered a conjunctive adverb in this case, like "however" or "therefore". It would then be okay to start a sentence with it.

BTW:
Rivkah Maccabi: "In other words, keep the bloody commas INSIDE THE QUOTATION MARKS."

Commas do not always belong inside the quotation marks, i.e.

Correct: I just heard Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring", which was conducted by Bernstein.

Incorrect: I just heard Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring," which was conducted by Bernstein.

Any challengers?

05-29-1999, 02:52 AM
Anyway, Spedrick liked my reviews but did not like my tendency to start sentences with "but". I hear and read sentences all the time that begin with "but", so I think it's all right. But enough about what I think, what do the Teeming Millions think?

Actually, I was taught that a sentece can be started with a "but" as long as it is followed with a comma. e.g. But, I do not think that she is really coming.
In the example, the "but" is used in the same way that a "however" would be used. e.g. However, I do not think that she is really coming.
See, it works just fine. ;)

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tipi :

05-29-1999, 07:50 AM
You're also not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. However, I have heard of an instance where someone ended a sentence with five prepositions.

Seems a little kid was waiting for his mother to bring up a bedtime book and tuck him in for the night. She brought up a book he didn't like and he asked her, "What did you bring that book that I don't want to be read to out of up for?"

Oh, and you can begin a sentence with any word you wish. Chances are your writing is literate and understandable. This, in my opinion, entitles you to break the rules, especially if the writing is of a casual sort. Getting your point across + being true to style overrides stuffy, boring and archaic rules. And this from an ex-editor.



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The Dave-Guy
"since my daughter's only half-Jewish, can she go in up to her knees?" J.H. Marx

05-29-1999, 12:30 PM
There is a great book, 'A manual of Email style' I think it was. Explains what you can and can't do. About how 'and' is acceptable to start a sentence with now. Just cause when we were kids we were taught not to do that doesn't mean it's not acceptable.

Eris, thanks for the quote, but I meant the quote of which lines starting with BUT that EC was referring to in that initial question.

It's also quite acceptable to finish a sentence with a preposition according to the book. After all, don't sales people almost always say, 'What are you looking for?' Rather than, 'For what are you Looking,' which would sound absurd.

05-29-1999, 10:41 PM
pathunt posted:Commas do not always belong inside the quotation marks, i.e.

Correct: I just heard Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring", which was conducted by Bernstein.

Incorrect: I just heard Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring," which was conducted by Bernstein.
However, pathunt's profile gives a location of KY which, unfortunately, places the example in error. The example would be correct on the eastern edge of the pond, where the Brits follow those rules. Over here, in the colonies, however the reverse is true. This aggravates me because I would prefer pathunt's usage, but in the U.S., style dictates that periods and commas are ALWAYS included within the quotation marks, however stupid that may seem.

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Tom~

05-29-1999, 10:55 PM
As an editor, I just had to weigh in on this subject.

As several people have already pointed out, the word "but" is used as a conjunction. Therefore, strictly speaking, its job is to link two independent clauses, not to begin a new sentence.

Obviously, in practical terms, when you begin a sentence with "but," your reader can presumably figure out that you are now advancing a new idea that is somewhat contrary to the the idea in the previous sentence. In other words, you are not committing a really harmful error, which is one that leads to confusion on the part of the reader.

But--you should realize that you are breaking a rule. Therefore, you should only do it sparingly, as a means of emphasis (as I just did in this paragraph).

If your editor is objecting, then you should go back and see whether you are overusing this sentence construction. There are several other words that would serve your need as well (however, unfortunately, nonetheless, nevertheless). Not only would they add variety; they are also more flexibil, because you can place them at different points in the sentence.

For example: "I wanted to go for a walk, but it was raining." It would be foolish to break this up into two sentence like this: "I wanted to go for a walk. But it was raining." The second sentence just isn't important enough to deserve breaking the rule. Why the extra emphasis?

However, if you've just used two or three sentence with the word "but," and you're looking to break the monotony, you could try:
"I wanted to go for a walk. However, it was, however, raining" or "It was raining, however" or "It was, however, raining."

This is one of those rules like not using parallel fifths in music: if you do it, it doesn't really hurt, but if you avoid it, you may find yourself coming up with something much better and more interesting.

05-29-1999, 11:16 PM
quote:

Commas do not always belong inside the quotation marks, i.e.

Correct: I just heard Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring", which was conducted by Bernstein.

Incorrect: I just heard Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring," which was conducted by Bernstein.
However, pathunt's profile gives a location of KY which, unfortunately, places the example in error. The example would be correct on the eastern edge of the pond, where the Brits follow those rules. Over here, in the colonies, however the reverse is true. This aggravates me because I would prefer pathunt's usage, but in the U.S., style dictates that periods and commas are ALWAYS included within the quotation marks, however stupid that may seem.

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Tom~

Umm, thanks for defending my position Tom, but I'm disappointed-- why don't you like the American usage? ::sniff::


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--Rowan

05-30-1999, 12:21 AM
Because I think the comma or period should set off the body of text (either as breaking point for a breath or as a closure to a conceptual point) while the quotation marks should set off a quote (or slang or words used ironically). We are not even consistent in our usage: quotes go outside commas and periods; quotes go inside colons and semi-colons; quotes go inside and outside of exclamation points and question marks depending on whether the quotation (or ironic usage) is the entire exclaimed or questioned phrase or is simply the last phrase in a longer sentence. Even realizing that language tends to not follow hard and fast rules of logic, I find the U.S. rules on quotes are a bit irrational.

Being a rule-follower at heart, I will follow the current (U.S.) convention, but I don't have to like it.
(It isn't personal, Rowan.)

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Tom~

05-30-1999, 01:28 AM
This thread sure is helping make the "for" case over on the Esperanto thread. ;)

05-30-1999, 01:30 AM
Hmmm...

I didn't realize that the quote/comma thing had different rules here in the US as they do in merry ole England. I've just been going by the punctuation rules in the appendix of my Webster's. I think I prefer the way I've been doing it, and will continue to do so. It doesn't really hurt anything to do it that way, does it?

05-30-1999, 01:49 AM
To go off topic, someone mentioned earlier that when people use "The thing of it...". Well yes its incorrect, but its an idiom =). Idioms dont make sense at all. Like: "Get off my back!" Anyway, it is the idioms that give color to language, and in an informal setting does it matter? I personally wouldn't use it if i were doing a presentation, but as others have said, if you get your point across does it matter?

05-30-1999, 04:01 AM
Perhaps the prescriptive vs. idiomatic struggle might be seen from a different perspective ? Out here in the Pacific, with dozens of English creoles and pidgins, written English is understood by all, while spoken lingo ain't.

It seems a losing battle to keep the two separate in English since it has become a lingua franca for a variety of cultures, and purposes - not to mention the proclivity to use informal, spoken styles in writing, whether you're Sam Clemens or a copywriter.

Semantics, if you believe N.Chomsky, would likely reflect the sociological group - increasingly broad in the case of English users. Very separate spoken and written forms coexist in Chinese and Arabic (although the latter uses an alphabet, and is more comparable). They may even be diverging, while English is converging.

But hey, entropy rules, OK ? (BTW, isn't punctuation within quotes or parentheses a bit like shutting down your computer without closing out Windows ?)

05-30-1999, 03:53 PM
Not being a native English speaker, I want to add my 0.02 worth.
In most Germanic languages, with added Latin overtones, starting a sentence with a conjunction is considered bad grammar.

But, remember that English is the language spoken by most people around the world. Not as a first language, but as a second. Nestlé, a Swiss company, has a board of directors from all over the world. The working language at their board meetings is ... English.

And one thing that has made English great, especially American E. is its ability to steal, borrow and adjust from other languages as well as to transform.

Look at the French. They're very protective of their language, and it's losing out every year. Fewer and fewr people care about learning it as a second language.

If the purists get to decide, the same will happen to English. Let it evolve. Things are considered OK now, which weren't a 100 years ago.

ct

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05-30-1999, 04:23 PM
Ah, the future is McEnglish you say ? Why not allow a "proper" English, retaining its identity (along with admittedly difficult rules) to coexist with the informal lingua franca of Afghan taxi drivers and Korean greengrocers ?

Guessing you're at least familiar with Pacific-area languages, you no doubt recognize that there are formal and informal languages in everything from Japanese to Tagalog to Samoan. Spanish too, come to think of it, separates informal and spoken from the written. I have trouble speaking with Dominicans, and they got trouble in Spain (see another thread on foreign languages) but we can both read Garcia Marquez. And Spanish wasn't vanishing last I looked.

Evolution doesn't require reduction to the lowest common denominator.

05-30-1999, 10:48 PM
>>Ah, the future is McEnglish you say ? Why not allow a "proper" English, retaining its identity (along with admittedly difficult rules) to coexist with the informal lingua franca of Afghan taxi drivers and Korean greengrocers ?

Guessing you're at least familiar with Pacific-area languages, you no doubt recognize that there are formal and informal languages in everything from Japanese to Tagalog to Samoan. Spanish too, come to think of it, separates informal and spoken from the written. I have trouble speaking with Dominicans, and they got trouble in Spain (see another thread on foreign languages) but we can both read Garcia Marquez. And Spanish wasn't vanishing last I looked.

Evolution doesn't require reduction to the lowest common denominator.<< --Jorge

Umm, English is the "lingua Franca"? LOL

Lowest common denominator? My Dear, Japanese students learning English as a second language score higher on tests of formal written English ("Dissertation English") than American students of the same age. I was working in a high school when these stats were published, and though I loved the kids, I must say I was not surprised.


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--Rowan
---------
If my mother had been in charge of the War on Drugs, it would be "Just say 'No thank you.'"
--------

05-31-1999, 01:17 AM
Rivkah,

Sorry you misunderstood me. Your experience with Japanese students' scores was my point exactly. They weren't studying Brooklynese, or Watts slang, but "standard dissertation English" (nor were they studying the pidgin so common on T-shirts in Tokyo). Good ! Those students rose to the occasion, as opposed to demanding simplified rules. My fault if I didn't include NY pizza sellers or Seattle record store workers along as examples with the Afghan cabbies. (Lingua franca was a weak pun; but as an international business language, English surely qualifies.)

Ah, if only "American" English users learned "proper" English, and how & when to separate it from the informal...

05-31-1999, 01:39 AM
I went to Spedricks web site, the one given in his member profile and got this message:
THE MEMBER PAGE
YOU REQUESTED
COULD NOT BE
FOUND!

Thus, we won't ever be able to find the stuff where the word BUT was used in order to determine if it was used properly. Kinda moot.

05-31-1999, 11:38 AM
Eris:
Get a grip. English is highly idiomatic.

I am an editor and so feel I have some right to address this.

Beginning a sentence with "and" or "but" is no big deal, unless you do it so often that it distracts the reader. I repeat, English is highly idiomatic.

To me, there are only two hard-and-fast rules of English: be clear, and don't let it be clunky.

Relax, already.

And when in doubt, consult Evans and Evans, "A Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage." The OED is a great source, but it is British English. Get a grip.



There is a big difference between idiomatic and grammatically incorrect. Idiomatic refers to groups of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words, for example, over the moon. The use of "but" and "and" to start sentences is not idiomatic, it is at best colloquial, and at worst just wrong.

I am curious as to how you manage to edit scientific journals effectively without paying much attention to grammar rules. I am a technical writer, and in the scope of my profession I also do a fair amount of editing of others' work. I have also worked at a newspaper (as an editor and writer) and supported myself in university editing term papers, resumés and cover letters. I would not have the professional reputation I do today were it not for my attention to detail in writing, particularly when it comes to grammar and word usage.

Certainly for some types of writing - first-person narrative fiction, for instance - using "and" or "but" to start sentences is acceptable. For most other uses, including journalistic writing, into which movie reviews would ordinarily fall, this usage is not acceptable.

I would also like to direct you towards my profile, which clearly indicates that I am not an American and therefore have no reason to subscribe to American grammar "rules" and conventions. By assuming that I am required to do so, you display the arrogance and egocentric attitude that so often causes strife between our two countries. The next time you see fit to give someone a lecture on "getting a grip" you should first make certain that your own is firm.

05-31-1999, 11:58 AM
This question's not worthy of its own thread so let me ask it here: With regard to the preposition at the end of a sentence rule, how else yould I ask Where are you from? without sounding like a total dork- i.e. From what country do you come?. Sheesh.

05-31-1999, 12:20 PM
Use, 'Where are you from?' Opus. I see no reason not to. True, we are taught not to use a preposition there when we were kids, but it's actually quite alright sometimes :-)

05-31-1999, 09:40 PM
Here's an example. Gregg Easterbrook, in his article "Load and Lock" in the May 31 New Republic, uses the word "but" to begin sentences several times. True, Easterbrook writes in an informal style....but in a respected magazine directed at educated people. Let me point out one thing. He likes incomplete sentences. Without either a subject or verb. His style works. His articles make sense. Read a few of them if you don't believe me.

Conclusion: If you're a rookie, follow the rules. If you know what you're doing, break them as long as you're sure you're going to communicate what you mean. And if breaking rules makes your writing more effective, go for it.

I appreciated Eris's posts.

05-31-1999, 09:48 PM
Oh, yeah. Wanna see incomplete sentences? Check out James Ellroy. Like him, don't like him, the guy gets his point across. Hard. Tough. Too Hemingway-influenced? Maybe. Too much stuff about his mother? Sure. Over-macho? Perhaps.

06-01-1999, 12:26 AM
>>To me, there are only two hard-and-fast rules of English: be clear, and don't let it be clunky.<< --uncredited quote

Absolutely. See below.

All other quotes from Eris:
>>There is a big difference between idiomatic and grammatically incorrect. Idiomatic refers to groups of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words, for example, over the moon. The use of "but" and "and" to start sentences is not idiomatic, it is at best colloquial, and at worst just wrong.<<

No. Wrong. "Idiomatic" is anything that is accepted usage, but does not conform to stated rules. Specific kinds of idiomatic expressions, such as "catching up on homework," "making up a story," or "the clock is running," are idioms. Using "but" and "and" to begin sentences in certain styles of writing is in fact idiomatic to that style.

Colloquial language is language specific to a geographic region, eg, the "ink pen" of the mid-West US. Since "colloquial" describes spoken language, it tends to be used to describe informal language. My mother spent four years trudging around Bohemian hills to tape record the natives for her award-winning study on the differences between literary and colloquial Czech, sub-titled "A Study in Code-Switching." I've never been able to stay awake long enough to read it....

What? Oh ::cough::

>>I am curious as to how you manage to edit scientific journals effectively without paying much attention to grammar rules. I am a technical writer....<<

Please. The worst stuff I ever have to read these days is social-work speak. There's never anything grammatically wrong with it, but it's full of gems such as "Gary is 100% independent in the area of laundry," or "Steve is not yet at the point where he can meet the change counting goal with more than two prompts successfully." No, the second does NOT contain a misplaced modifier.

>>Certainly for some types of writing - first-person narrative fiction, for instance - using "and" or "but" to start sentences is acceptable. For most other uses, including journalistic writing, into which movie reviews would ordinarily fall, this usage is not acceptable.<<

Umm, no, reviews are not necessarily journalism-- or rather, there are many kinds of journalism. The guy covering the Mid-East peace talks for the NYT is not going to write the same way as the guy reviewing The Mummy for Rolling Stone.

If you do not believe me, read Dorothy Parker's Constant Reader book reviews from the New Yorker. (Available from the MOdern Library) Some of the tautest, sharpest, sassiest, most lucid writing ever, and absolutely enthralling. And informal as hell.

How come she never won a Pulitzer?


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--Rowan

If my mother had been in charge of the War on Drugs,
it would be "Just say 'No thank you.'"

06-01-1999, 01:43 AM
Ending an English sentence with a preposition is perfectly valid as long as it makes sense. The rule against ending sentences with a preposition was (unsuccessfully) imposed on the language in the eighteenth century when various scholars of the Enlightenment attempted to "bring English up to the standards of Latin." In Latin you may not end a sentence with a preposition for reasons that are inherent in the structural syntax of Latin. English does not use the same syntax; sentences ending in prepositions were acceptable prior to the Enlightenment; no serious scholar of English accepted the pedantic insertion of the eighteenth century, anyway.
After all, if language is not to communicate, what is it for?

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Tom~

06-01-1999, 12:06 PM
Rivkah Maccabi: "In other words, keep the bloody commas INSIDE THE QUOTATION MARKS."
Commas do not always belong inside the quotation marks, i.e.

Correct: I just heard Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring", which was conducted by Bernstein.

Incorrect: I just heard Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring," which was conducted by Bernstein.

Any challengers?

I know this has already been addressed, but I'd like to offer a specific cite: in Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, page 36, it says: "Typographical usage dictates that the comma be inside the marks, though logically it often seems not to belong there."

As the ancient Chinese saying goes, "The Law may upset reason; reason must never upset the Law."

Also, you used i.e. in an instance when you should have used e.g. -- a particular peeve of mine.

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Live a Lush Life
Da Chef

06-01-1999, 05:54 PM
DAVEW0071 says:
You're also not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. However, I have heard of an instance where someone ended a sentence with five prepositions.
Seems a little kid was waiting for his mother to bring up a bedtime book and tuck him in for the night. She brought up a book he didn't like and he asked her, "What did you bring that book that I don't want to be read to out of up for?"

So what would be the "correct" form of that sentence, "For what did you bring up that book to out of which I don't want to be read?" Or what?


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Phantomwise

...never seen by waking eyes...

06-01-1999, 06:22 PM
DAVEW0071 says:

quote:

>>You're also not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. However, I have heard of an instance where someone ended a sentence with five prepositions.

Seems a little kid was waiting for his mother to bring up a bedtime book and tuck him in for the night. She brought up a book he didn't like and he asked her, "What did you bring that book that I don't want to be read to out of up for?"<<

The way I heard it, the book was about Australia: "What did you bring that book I didn't want to be read to out of about "Down Under" up for?"

------------------
--Rowan

If my mother had been in charge of the War on Drugs,
it would be "Just say 'No thank you.'"

06-01-1999, 06:22 PM
DAVEW0071 says:

quote:

>>You're also not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. However, I have heard of an instance where someone ended a sentence with five prepositions.

Seems a little kid was waiting for his mother to bring up a bedtime book and tuck him in for the night. She brought up a book he didn't like and he asked her, "What did you bring that book that I don't want to be read to out of up for?"<<

The way I heard it, the book was about Australia: "What did you bring that book I didn't want to be read to out of about "Down Under" up for?"


------------------
--Rowan

If my mother had been in charge of the War on Drugs,
it would be "Just say 'No thank you.'"

06-01-1999, 06:34 PM
But that would be bad grammer.
PapaBear: You must not teach grammer? (Grammar).
We don't want to teach Thor bad English.

06-01-1999, 06:34 PM
But that would be bad grammer.
PapaBear: You must not teach grammer? (Grammar).
We don't want to teach Thor bad English.

06-01-1999, 07:17 PM
No, no, PapaBear, "bad Grammer" is when Frasier star Kelsey Grammer is having a bad acting day.

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Live a Lush Life
Da Chef

06-01-1999, 09:28 PM
If you guys are just now discovering that I carry a bad-spelling gene, you're not very observant.

BTW - I teach History, or as I prefer to call it "selective human memory".

06-02-1999, 12:47 AM
According to "A Dictionary of Modern American Usage" by Brian A. Garner, "It is a gross canard that beginning a sentence with but is stylistically slipshod. In fact, doing so is highly desirable in any number of contexts, and many stylebooks that discuss the question quite correctly say that but is better than however at the beginning of a sentence." I agree!