Business Writing Tip 37—Some Words about Coordinating Conjunctions

Conjunctions join parts of sentences together. They can join short sentences together to help provide sentence length variety and make our writing smoother.

There are two types of conjunctions: coordinating and subordinating. In this post we’ll look at coordinating conjunctions.

Coordinating conjunctions join clauses or words when we want to give equal emphasis to both parts of the sentence. To remember which words are coordinating conjunctions just remember the word FANBOYS. English has seven coordinating conjunctions:fanboys

  • For
  • And
  • Nor
  • But
  • Or
  • Yet
  • So

So now, how do we use them?

Here’s an example. First we’ll look at two sentences, and then look at them joined with a conjunction.

Sentence One: I wanted to work on the new project.

Sentence Two: My boss wanted me to finalise the annual report input.

New Sentence: I wanted to work on the new project, but my boss wanted me to finalise the annual report input.

Because the two clauses can stand alone as independent sentences, we need to put a comma before the coordinating conjunction ‘but’.

Now look at this example where we don’t need to use a comma.

Sentence One: I wanted to work on the new project.

Sentence Two: I didn’t want to head up the team.

New Sentence: I wanted to work on the new project but not head up the team.

I’ve joined the sentences with ‘but’ and removed extra words.

I might also have written ‘I wanted to work on the new project but I didn’t want to head up the team.’ (This version includes lots of words that aren’t adding to the meaning.)

We don’t use a comma in this case because the two sentences we’ve joined aren’t independent clauses. That is, the second part of the sentence—the part that comes after ‘but’—is not a stand-alone sentence.

In my next post, we’ll take a look at subordinating conjunctions.

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