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When is it OK to start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction?

You can use a comma or a dash to connect these pairs of sentences, but writing them separately is not incorrect. It is looked upon by some as informal.

He started a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. And that was the end of him.
He started a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. But his wife didn’t leave him.
He started a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. Or perhaps he only dreamed that he did, because the kale was spoiled.

Does OK mean grammatical or stylistically acceptable? This statement from an Oxford Dictionaries blog addresses the question:

[T]his is a stylistic preference rather than a grammatical “rule.” . . .

Published 29 May 2019

What is the MLA’s approach to the singular they?

In its publications, the MLA generally does not use the plural pronoun they (or their, them, and themselves) to refer to singular nouns. While the singular they is not uncommon in spoken English and in some informal contexts, in formal writing it is best to reword for agreement in number. In the following example their and they are mismatched with each student:

Each student is expected to choose the topic of their research paper before they take the midterm.

In our editorial practice, . . .

Published 3 October 2018

How can I avoid redundancy in my in-text citations?

As the MLA Handbook notes, “The in-text citation should direct the reader unambiguously to the entry in your works-cited list for the source—and, if possible, to a passage in the source—while creating the least possible interruption in your text” (54). Thus information provided in your prose directing readers to your works-cited-list entry for the source should not be repeated in parentheses and vice versa.

According to Naomi Baron, reading is “just half of literacy. The other half is writing” (Baron 194).


According to Naomi Baron, reading is “just half of literacy. The other half is writing” (194).

Published 28 April 2018

How do I style a percentage at the start of a sentence?

Since you should never begin a sentence with a numeral, you should first try to reword the sentence. If you find it unwieldy to reorder your words, spell out the number:

Seventy-six percent of the class barely passed the final, 18% flunked miserably, and 6% burst into tears.

Normally you shouldn’t mix words and numerals, but you can make an exception to avoid having a number at the start of a sentence.

Published 19 April 2018

What pronoun should I use if I do not know the gender identity of the person I am writing about?

Do not use a pronoun in such cases. If a last name is given, repeat the person’s last name on subsequent mentions in your paper. If a last name is not given, continue to use the person’s first name. When possible, find a way to vary references by substituting generic nouns. For example, “the author,” “the survey respondent,” “the speaker,” and so on. 
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Published 9 April 2018

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