I once worked for a company who believed that it was “unprofessional” to use a conjunction at the start of a sentence.
They said using conjunctions in this way wasn’t a demonstration “proper English”. That it wasn’t the way they were taught to write in school.
They thought that using a conjunction at the start of a sentence would make their customers think less of them.
But you know what they failed to realise? Their customers didn’t give a shit whether or not they used a conjunction at the start of a sentence. Their customers only cared about buying a product through an easy, friendly customer experience.
And putting a conjunction at the start of a sentence is sometimes a damn fine way to improve the customer experience.
Wait. What’s a conjunction again?
Your English teacher in school probably told you that a conjunction is a joining word that helps us string together different phrases in a sentence. (For example: and, but, or, if, so, because.) The conjunction is normally found midway through the sentence and after a comma, because that’s where it makes sense to put a joining word. (See what I did there?)
Your English teacher wasn’t wrong. Conjunctions are most often used to join connected phrases within a sentence. But they can also be used to join connected phrases within a paragraph. Or even from one paragraph to the next. And the way you do this is by putting the conjunction at the start of the subsequent sentence.
Why is it awesome to use a conjunction at the start a sentence?
#1 It makes your content more conversational
Most people prefer a conversational tone when they’re reading content, particularly online. Because conversational content is just easier to read. It’s written the way we would speak.
We live in a world where so many things are hard to read (legal contracts, terms and conditions, IKEA instructions, emails from your boss, etc). So if you want to grab somebody’s attention – and hold it – why not write in a way that’s easy for them to read?
#2 It shows your brand is forward-thinking
It’s old fashioned to think that you can’t start a sentence with a conjunction.
We often think of “professional” writing as the way we were told to write in school. But in school, the only type of writing we were taught was how to write an essay. And an essay is supposed to be pretty formal.
You know what’s not supposed to be formal? Pretty much all B2C content.
If you’re writing customer-facing content, the most professional thing you can do is write in a way that resonates with your audience. And formal content sure as shit doesn’t resonate with most people.
#3 It helps you avoid long sentences
The traditional purpose of a conjunction is to join together two different elements. In other words – to create a long sentence.
But people don’t really like reading long sentences. It’s hard.
When a sentence is 14 words, readers understand at least 90% of it. But at 43 words, they understand less than 10%.
So if you want people to understand your content, keep those babies short and sweet.
You can still use a conjunction to show that the two ideas are connected. Just put it at the start of your second sentence.
#4 It can be a good way to add emphasis or create surprise
Sometimes you want to separate elements of your sentence because you’re saving the best for last. Or maybe you want to surprise the reader with an unexpected reveal. A conjunction helps you do this, because it creates a pause. It lets the reader absorb one thought before they tuck in to the next.
e.g. “As the pounding grew louder, Janet raced down the hallway and flung open the front door. But there was nobody there.”
So there you have it
Using a conjunction at the start of a sentence is totally fine. And next time somebody claims it can’t be done, you can school them on the benefits of giving it a go.