Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Superstitions (6)

 Today: “Never Begin a Sentence with ‘Because.'” So novel and absurd is this superstition that few authorities on writing have countered it in print. But here’s one: “This proscription [‘Never begin a sentence with because’] appears in no handbook of usage I know of, but the belief seems to have a popular currency among many students.” Joseph M. Williams, Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace 168 (1981). It appears to result from concern about fragments — e.g.: “Then the group broke for lunch. Because we were hungry.” Of course, the second “sentence” is merely a fragment, not a complete sentence. But problems of that kind simply cannot give rise to a general prohibition against starting a sentence with “because.” Good writers do so frequently — e.g.: o “Because of the war the situation in hospitals is, of course, serious.” E.B. White, “A Weekend with the Angels,” in The Second Tree from the Corner 3, 6 (1954). o “Because the relationship between remarks is often vague in this passage, we could not rewrite it with certainty without knowing the facts.” Donald Hall, Writing Well 104 (1973). See GMAU, “because (E).” Next: “Never Use ‘since’ to Mean ‘because.'” For information about the Language-Change index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “‘The man I am talking about’ is infinitely better English than ‘The man about whom I am talking,’ as should be apparent to all familiar with good speech, listening to the two forms. Yet legions of our young folk will leave school having firmly implanted in their heads, and alas their use, that for reasons beyond their ken, the more elegant, dressy, scholar-like way of saying it is, ‘The man of whom I am talking’ — no matter how strongly their instincts, bless them, tell them it is unnatural and forced.” Richard Burton, Why Do You Talk Like That? 186-87 (1929).
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