Use Three Letter Words (And, But, Yet, Nor) to Kick Your Sentences Off to a Strong Start

Posted: November 4th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Most Popular Posts, Plain English: Tips | No Comments »

Certain four-letter words never belong in professional writing. But why are lawyers so afraid of starting sentences with three-letter words such as but, and, yet or nor? Three-letter words are strong sentence starters because they help you control the pace and rhythm of your writing. Using them will liberate your style. (But is particularly liberating. Try it. You’ll see.)

Don’t be afraid. You will be in good company if you begin sentences with three-letter words. Supreme Court justices routinely begin sentences with but, and, yet and nor. Indeed, they slip into three-letter sentence starters once they are deep into their argument and their writing is at its most earnest. Consider these examples from various justices writing in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1, 551 U.S. 701, 748 (2007):

  • But I am quite comfortable in the company I keep.”

551 U.S. at 772 (Justice Thomas concurring)

  • But the district vigorously defends the constitutionality of its race-based program.”

– 551 U.S. at 719 (Justice Roberts, writing for majority)

  • And my view was the rallying cry for the lawyers who litigated Brown.”

551 U.S. at 772 (Justice Kennedy concurring)

  •  “And appropriately so.”

551 U. S. at 752 (Justice Thomas, concurring).

  • Yet our tradition is to go beyond present achievements, however insignificant . . .”

551 U. S. at 752 (Justice Kennedy, concurring).

  • Yet the plurality would deprive them of at least one tool that some districts now consider vital . . . .”

551 U.S. at 862 (Justice Breyer, dissenting).

  • Nor could it.”

– 551 U.S. at 721 (Justice Roberts, writing for majority).

  • Nor is it likely to find such a case.”

551 U.S. at 863 (Justice Breyer, dissenting).

So be brave. And kick your sentences into action . . . .


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