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Writing Books/The "Inaugural But"


Hello, "Bobbie",

I'm confident that I write well. BUT, because I obey the rule never to begin a sentence with "But," I can even see it, myself, how my writing comes across as stuffy. The problem, HOWEVER, is inherent when presenting, in particular, a strong argument, as these inherently involve a steady stream of paradigm shifts. The whole "however, although, nevertheless" thing also intrinsically demands additional modifying clauses and their commas--which again, I  hate. BUT--because an inaugural "but" effectively turns the previous period into a comma, so creating a doubly-long sentence, the style is frowned upon.
Or is it?
Personally, normally, I could care less whether I break this rule (or many others) or not. For me the operative rules being communiction, communication, and communication, the only reason I have obeyed the No Buts Rule it is, I see too many lit agents and publishers thinking of a first-time writer and before they get past page two, "This guy can't write!"
It seems that many professional agree with me. BUT the rules seem to be different for we first-timers, who are constantly being told to demonstrate that we can write well.
What do I do here?

Dear Dan:

If you read my book (Write In Style), you know my opinion on sticking your "But" out. A well-placed, exquisitely chosen "But" to begin a sentence adds drama because it breaks the rule and draws attention to itself. If a writer uses "But" at the beginning of more than one sentence, though, the drama is lost and the writer looks like an amateur who doesn't know the rules.

If you sense that drawing a sentence together with a comma makes the sentence too long, rewrite it and tighten it.

Yes, I see many a printed sentence beginning with "But," but invariably the uses add up and detract from, rather than enhance, the writing. Is that what you want your "But" to look like?

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Let me know if you have any other questions.

Bobbie Christmas
Zebra Communications

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Bobbie Christmas


Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas owns Zebra Communications, a book-editing firm in metro Atlanta. She not only edits books, she also helps writers power up their prose to increase their chances of success. She is the author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), a creative-writing guide that won three awards.


Bobbie has spent more than 40 years in the publishing and communications industry and has run Zebra Communications, a book-editing company, since 1992. The editor of many publications and periodicals, she has worked with book publishers and trade magazine publishers as well as working in marketing communications and corporate communications.

Past president, Georgia Writers Association; past vice president, South Carolina Writers Workshop; charter/lifelong member, Florida Writers Association; Southeastern Writers Association; Atlanta Writers Club; Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL); International Guild of Professional Consultants

Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation), A Cup of Comfort for Friends (Adams Media), A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (Adams Media), Haunted Engounters (Atriad Press), Remembering Woolworth's (St. Martin's Press), First-Time Home Buyer magazine, HomeBusiness Journal, Apparel Industry Magazine, Edge Magazine, Atlanta Jewish Times, Time Travel Australia, American Writers Review, Points North, That's Entertainment, Atlanta Parent, Agnes Scott Alumnae Magazine, etc.

Journalism: University of South Carolina plus four decades of working in publishing, marketing, communications, advertising, newspaper and magazine production, book publishing, etc.

Awards and Honors
First Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers Annual Contest, 2005; First Place, education, Royal Palm Literary Award, 2004; Best in Division, Georgia Author of the Year Awards, 2005; Finalist, Best Books 2005, USA BookNews Third Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers, 1999; Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, 1998; plus many other awards

Past/Present Clients
Capital Books, Sourcebooks, Olin Frederick, The Writer's Machine, Russell Dean & Company, Outskirts Press, and hundreds of writers.

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