Writing Hint #3 Prepositions and conjunctions

My wife and I usually agree on most things. There is one matter on which we often clash swords – in a friendly way I might add.

My wife is adamant that it is very bad form to start sentences with a conjunction. I must admit to doing this on many occasions, usually for special effect. And it really riles her. But in my defence, I am not alone in using this writing style.

And this quote says it all:

“Prepositions are not for ending sentences with. And don’t start sentences with a conjunction.”

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5 Responses to “Writing Hint #3 Prepositions and conjunctions”

  1. Chris Howard says:

    Ooooh! Contentious, Trevor. And an argument that no one wins.

    I grew up with both those rules, but modern grammar certainly allows both.

    Some sentences can only end in a preoposition; otherwise, they appear quite clumsy.

    Examples from the “Handbook for Writers and Editors” by Margaret McKenzie (the book we’re using in the TAFE Professional Writing and Editing course):

    – Which door did you come through? (Instead of ‘Through which door did you come?’)

    – He was someone you could rely on. (Instead of ‘He was someone on whom you could rely.’)

    – The play wasn’t worth going to. (Instead of ‘It wasn’t worth going to the play.’)

    As she says, “Use common sense and use the structure that sounds most natural”

    She also says of starting a sentence with co-ordinating conjunction to use it for emphasis but not to overdo it.

  2. Chris Howard says:

    Sometimes we also use “But”, “Or”, “Yet” and “So” like conjunctive adverbs. For example, where we might mean “However”, we say “But”

    “And” though I think we usually just use for emphasis.

  3. Ro says:

    On the topic of impact and readability, I’ll return to the original quote (Yes I realise this is a 2 year old post). As chris points out, conjunctives can have different uses, so it is more important that they are used to retain meaning rather than grammatical ‘correctness’ (IMHO).

    It is difficult to read the quote “Prepositions are not for ending sentences with. And don’t start sentences with a conjunction”.

    Because of the way our brain decodes text, impact of the message is preferred at the end of a sentence so that meaning is not lost (as this sentence demonstrates). The “with” at the end of the original statement is dropped by our minds, resulting in a decreased interpretation.

    To put it another way, consider a movie that has a ‘blockbuster’ scene at the beginning, followed by political dribble at the end (dribble being a highly technical term). Not only would meaning be lost, you would also find the movie less enjoyable.

    Meaning can be clarified through the use of singular and chronological phrasing, as demonstrated by the following rephrased quote.

    “Do not start a sentence with a conjunction, or end a sentence with a preposition.”

    Additional impact can be obtained by rephrasing the second clause as a command. This more strongly suggests that the clauses have equal weighting.

    “Do not start a sentence with a conjunction, and do not end a sentence with a preposition.”

    I’ve found that a careful analysis of each clause, with strong readability, helps to ensure text is enjoyable, and well understood.

  4. Trevor says:

    Thanks Ro.

    I found your suggestions very valuable. Thanks for stopping by.

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