Yes, You Can Start a Sentence with “But”!

Last week Ann Levin reviewed a novel called Red Bone for the Associated Press. I immediately sent a response to my local newspaper, which printed Levin’s review. She made a serious error in her first paragraph:

Jacqueline Woodson begins her dazzling new novel, “Red at the Bone,” with an afterthought, in the middle of things, and breaking all the rules of grammar by starting with a “but”: “But that afternoon there was an orchestra playing.”

Woodson didn’t break “all the rules of grammar.” She didn’t break even one rule of grammar. There’s no rule against starting a sentence with but – and never has been. AP articles frequently start sentences with but, and I’m astonished that Levin – an AP writer – doesn’t know this.

My letter appeared in yesterday’s newspaper. You can read it here:


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