Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ask the Editor: Starting a Sentence with "But" and Accept vs Except

I'm at Hart Johnson's blog today talking about the inspiration behind Defying Gravity.


Every 1st and 3rd Thursday, I'll take your editorial questions. Grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure and more! I will showcase questions and answers (with permission) once I get questions as well. To ask a question, please fill out the form below.

I've been a freelance editor since November 2010. If I don't know the answer, I will find it.  

Christine Rains asks, “I’ve always been told its improper to start a sentence with “but.” BUT I see it a lot. (I usually change the “but” to “yet” when editing.) Is it a stylistic choice or is it proper in some instances?”  

It depends on what you are writing. Is it nonfiction? An essay? Fiction? Not using “but” to start a sentence is formal writing, such as essays, theses, most nonfiction. In fiction, the rule not to use “but,” or “and” for that matter, to start a sentence is thrown out the window. True, you don’t want to overuse it, but stylistically it is not only used, but also can be encouraged.

Jessica G. asks, “I can never remember if I should use “accept” or “except.” Is there a tip for their proper usage?

Accept means “to receive, take in, approve.” It’s a verb. Example, “I accepted the extra piece of cake.”

Except means “but not” or “with the exclusion of.” It is a preposition, but there is the case where except can be a verb to mean “reject” as in “The club admitted the group, but excepted Jill because she’s under age twenty-one.”

Knowing this may help some, but is there a quick tip to remember?

Yes, focus on the beginning letters and their meanings.
If you accept, you approve it.
If you except, you exclude it.
I found this great site that gives a trick to remembering it as well as a quiz.


Julie Flanders said...

Great tips, and very helpful to me right now since I'm in the middle of editing. Heading over to check out your guest post now. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I start sentences with but...

Sherri Lackey said...

I overuse "but" a lot in my writing. I start sentences with it and I use it in the formal way. It drives me nuts! I have to go back to whatever I have written and edit out about half of the "buts". Maybe you could suggest some alternatives to "but". :)

See you soon on my blog on March 5th!

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Great answers. My first time here.


Christine Rains said...

Thanks for the answers! I have another question now. I really need a t-shirt that says "Question Girl!"

Hart Johnson said...

Ha! The 'But' rule is one I didn't know the WHY on. I had absorbed it somehow, but didn't know it was typically a fiction/non-fiction thing. i write scientifically, and we don't use contractions either--they aren't formally excluded, but they really just aren't used. Took me a while to get used to using them again.

Marta Szemik said...

Very helpful tips. Thank you!

Golden Eagle said...

Thanks for the editing tips! :)