What’s your function?

Conjunctions link words, phrases, and clauses. They’re powerhouses in the English language, but too many conjunctions can weaken your writing.

One suggestion my editor offered was to watch overusing the subordinating contraction because. Wow, really? I never stopped to think about how or how often I used that specific linking word. Turns out, she was right.

Grabbing two books off my living room shelf and flipping through, I read a few passages of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. (My bookshelf houses an eclectic group of books.)  Within minutes, I found two sentences that were linked in content and I joined the two with the word because. (a conjunction)

“The surgery he performed on transexuals wasn’t a selling point over at the March of Dimes because to get them interested you had to pull at the heartstrings.” versus “The surgery he performed on transexuals wasn’t a selling point over at the March of Dimes. To get them interested you had to pull at the heartstrings.” page 420 MiddleSex

“Peeta and I make no effort to find company but are constantly sought out because we are what no one wants to miss at the party.” versus “Peeta and I make no effort to find company but are constantly sought out. We are what no one wants to miss at the party.” page 78 Catching Fire

“I dashed to the front of the line because Sally would tell everyone my secret if she beat me there.” versus “I dashed to the front of the line. Sally would tell everyone my secret if she beat me there.”

That was my mistake. Although the sentences fell into place and fed off one another, I hitched them together. I wasn’t satisfied that I led the horse to water. I wanted to make him drink.

School House Rock isn’t selling you short. Conjunctions are great tools for every writer. However, there are times when a sentence needs to stand alone to yield a greater impact. When you’re editing your work, take a close look at your conjunctions. Lead the horse to water, but let them drink on their own.

(if you want to see a complete list of conjunctions and the three categories, click here.)

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