Writing Mistakes: Using “But” – Andy Peloquin

Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Writing Mistakes: Using “But”

I didn’t think using the word “but” was a mistake, BUT according to my editor, it is one of the weak words that should be used as sparingly as possible.

Here’s how the word should be used [1]:

To suggest a contrast that is unexpected in light of the first clause. “Alfred is late, but Josephina is not.”

To suggest in an affirmative sense what the first part of the sentence implied in a negative way. “We never leave late, but are always early.”

To connect two ideas with the meaning of “with the exception of” (and then the second word takes over as subject). “Everyone but Alfred was late to the meeting.”

Seems simple enough, right?

Here’s my original use of the word “but” in a sentence:

Pain flared as tree branches whipped at his face, but it did little to slow him.

My editor decided that it would look better like this:

Pain flared as tree branches whipped at his face, yet it did little to slow him.

Now, in my opinion, I think the “yet” does look better in this instance, but it’s hard to know when to use “but” and when to opt for “and” or “yet”.

So how do you know when it’s better to stick with “but” or when to look for other options (“and”, “yet”, “though”, etc.?)

Writers, any ideas that can help?

 

[1] http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/conjunctions.htm

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2 Comments

  1. Gregg

    Well, it would most closely follow the first rule “To suggest a contrast that is unexpected in light of the first clause” except for the fact that it is not really unexpected. I am imagining your character is intensely running through a forest–on a mission. So, although the branches hurting him ads to the description of his intense resolve, it is not surprising that he doesn’t slow down because of it. If it were to say, “Pain flared as tree branches whipped at his face, so he slowed down because it really hurt.” –now that would be surprising. The fact that he keeps going is not really unexpected. my 2cents.

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