Grammar Moses: For Pete's sake, you can start a sentence with a conjunction

Updated 9/18/2021 8:50 PM

Tired of my blathering?

Well, you're in luck.


My mailbag is in serious need of a fall purging, so here are some quick hits as short and sweet as anything you'll find in the back of the TV Guide:


Susan Biskner wrote to me: "When I said he 'pled guilty' during a conversation with a friend, she replied, 'I am so glad you didn't use the word "pleaded." I think "pleaded" is used too much when speaking of guilt or innocence.' I had to agree. What do you think?"

I probably spent as much time punctuating Susan's quote within a quote within a quote as I spent on coming up with a response.

The good old (new) Associated Press Stylebook urges us to use plead/pleaded/pleading and not to use the colloquial past tense form "pled."

I'll admit it is commonplace, I know that many in the law enforcement community use the "pled" form.

So, as is my tradition, I compared "pled guilty" with "pleaded guilty" in Google's Ngram Viewer, which traces word usage in books published from 1800 to 2019.

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You might assume the more formal usage would find favor with book editors, and in this case you'd be right.

"Pled" began to grow in popularity in books in the mid-1960s, peaked in 1990 and has been on the decline since. Today, "pleaded guilty" is nearly three times as popular.

Round and round

A pen pal who wishes to remain nameless sent this nagging question:

"My friend and I have gone round and round on this for years. (Or is it around and around?)

"Is it 'down the pike' or 'down the pipe?'

"I did 'G it up' (my short way of saying 'Google it!')

"I don't like answers from an AI platform."

I am the original AI platform: Always Insolent.

The idiom is "round and round." If you subscribe to Acorn TV, as my dad and sister do (I am told it is a Tarantino-free zone, which explains their interest in it) you'll hear a lot of "He's gone round the bend" and "I'll be right round to pick up those smashing biscuits, dear."


Brits tend to drop the "a" in "around."

Think of the carnival barker's cry: "Round and round she goes; where she stops, nobody knows."

To answer your second question, it's "down the pike," referring to a turnpike and not a fish.

If you are talking about eating raw mollusks, however, then the shiver-inducing phrase would be "down the pipe."

I'll quit whinging now.

But, but

And this from Marshall Kaplan:

"My complaint or maybe confusion is with the use of the word 'and' to start a sentence. I have been under the impression that the word 'and' is a conjunction to connect phrases and clauses.

"It seems that the word 'and' is being used to connect sentences that should be able to stand by themselves in addition to clauses and phrases. This usage of the word 'and' seems grammatically incorrect to me."

Marshall, you've been watching too much "Schoolhouse Rock."

Coordinating conjunctions "and" and "but" and their cousins "so," "yet," or," "nor" and "for" are perfectly suitable words with which to start a sentence, too.

You'll see that I use them a lot.

A great many favorite authors use them in this fashion, especially when writing dialogue.

If that isn't enough to convince you, even the authors of the Good Book did so. Open up a Bible to Genesis 2:17:

"But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."

Write carefully!

• Jim Baumann is vice president/managing editor of the Daily Herald. Write him at Put Grammar Moses in the subject line. You also can friend or follow Jim at

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