Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: which (3).

which (3). Today: Beginning Sentences with “which.” Increasingly in modern prose, “Which” is being used to begin an incomplete sentence. Is this permissible? Yes, the answer must be — primarily in three instances. First, the introductory “Which” can be not only appropriate but also effective when the preceding sentence is long and the conclusion is so important that it shouldn’t be a mere appendage — e.g.: “An audience thus captivated will surely come to marvel at Shakespeare’s genius, but the hook that has skewered them is the dynamic of the narrative and the irresistible magnetism of his protagonists. Which is why ‘Hamlet’ generally fills theatres and Pericles empties them.” Keith Baxter, “The Power of Priestley,” Daily Telegraph, 29 Oct. 1994, Arts §, at 2. Second, even after a short sentence, it can lend a dramatic effect to the “Which-” clause — e.g.: o “All a dying man could utter would be a prejudgment. Which is absurd.” Christopher Ricks, T.S. Eliot and Prejudice 91 (1988). o “It means a comeback for the three-martini lunch. Which is a win-win situation.” Tony Kornheiser, “There’s a New Prescription for Better Exercise, Bending Elbows,” Detroit News, 12 Oct. 1994, at C1. o “Giuliani says the city still will take care of more people than any other city. Which is exactly his problem.” Jimmy Breslin, “A Lousy Plan for the City,” Newsday (N.Y.), 27 Oct. 1994, at A2. Third, it’s helpful when a thought is expressed in several sentences, and what follows — an inference, a summation, or the result of an alternative description — refers to all of it. Often the paragraph ends, or a new paragraph begins, with a sentence starting with “which” — e.g.: “In the process, the 31-year-old Mr. Rose has become a one-man cheering squad for the virtues of pet food. People may turn up their noses, but pet food is made under such stringent controls that it actually is fit for human consumption. ‘It’s pasteurized, sterilized and every other “ized,”‘ Mr. Rose says. [¶] Which doesn’t mean most people want to spread a table cloth and share a few cans with Tabby, or with the guests.” Judith Valente, “Edwin Rose’s Palate Is Working Overtime on His Pet Theories,” Wall Street J., 29 June 1994, at A1. Next: “And which”; “but which.” For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “The preservation of a language in a standard form depends on educated speakers keen to preserve it.” T.W.H. Holland, The Nature of English 13 (1967).
Scroll to Top