Joiners – How to Use Coordinating Conjunctions

Can I Join You?

Often used when writing is too staccato, clipped, or choppy, coordinating conjunctions can be used to balance simple sentences. But be careful! Too many conjunctions can result in loose writing that can be considered trite, monotonous, and flavorless.

Keep your readers happy and focused by using these coordinating conjunction tips.

What Is a Conjunction?

For those who need a refresher, a conjunction is a connecting word and is often described as a “joiner.” The most popular conjunctions are coordinating conjunctions (e.g., and). However, there are other conjunction families, such as subordinating conjunctions (e.g., that) and correlative conjunctions (e.g., if … then), waiting to be used (and abused).

Coordinating Conjunctions

Simple conjunctions used to give equal emphasis between words, phrases, clauses, or sentences of equal rank are coordinating conjunctions. A common acronym to remember this family of conjunctions is FANBOYS (for and nor but or yet so).

Coordinating conjunctions join two independent clauses and are usually accompanied by a comma.

The soybean farmer loves to go bungee jumping, but he will never go without his lucky hamster.

When a coordinating conjunction accompanies two well-balanced (interrelated) independent clauses, a comma isn’t necessary.

Frederic, the turtle, played the violin and he was often employed by couples on their first date.

The coordinating conjunction and is used before the last item in a simple series.

Samuel loves his cooking, his family, and his cat.

For emphasis, a coordinating conjunction can be used (instead of a comma) to connect items in a simple series.

Steven ate 6 hotdogs and 5 hamburgers and 16 steaks – it’s no wonder why his bad cholesterol is so high!

Coordinating conjunctions are used to join two words or phrases.

After reflecting on her favorite superheroes, Jenny realized neither Captain America nor the Hulk wore a cape.

Additional Coordinating Conjunction Tips

  • You can use And or But at the beginning of a sentence if the sentence cannot function without it and it isn’t connected to the previous sentence. Just don’t overdo it! Beginning with a conjunction excessively can make your writing look incompetent.
  • Semicolons shouldn’t be used in the presence of a coordinating conjunction unless there is extensive punctuation required in one or more individual clauses. [Learn more]
  • Don’t capitalize coordinating conjunctions in titles, unless the word is four or more letters. [Learn more]

Loose (Joiners) vs. Simple (Sentences)

Make sure your writing is well balanced by employing both simple sentences as well as joiners to avoid appearing too loose (borderline verbose) or too simple (short and choppy).

Too Simple …

Bricklaying is a masonry skill. It should be left to the professionals. Most people think bricklaying is a simple task. One day, the time comes to do the actual bricklaying. But it is not as simple as it looks.

Too Loose …

Bricklaying is a masonry skill and it should be left to the professionals even though most people think bricklaying is a simple task, until one day, the time comes to do the actual bricklaying, but it is not as simple as it looks.

Find balance! For emphasis or to drive a point home, use a simple sentence. For exposition or clarifying descriptions, use joiner sentences. Above all, explore how you can construct an engaging sentence by experimenting with conjunctions, punctuation, and more.

A Well-Balanced Version …

Bricklaying is a masonry skill that should be left to the professionals. Most people think bricklaying is a simple task, but the day will come to do the actual bricklaying and that’s when they know … It is not as simple as it looks!

Use these coordinating conjunction and well-balanced sentence tips to keep your readers engaged. We’ll be exploring more joiners and the conjunction family in the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

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23 Comments »


1
davidinnotts writes:

Thanks, Penny – that’s a good summary. But it does bring up one of those Transatlantic differences. In non-US English, a simple list: “Samuel loves his cooking, his family, and his cat.”, omits the final comma: “Samuel loves his cooking, his family and his cat.” In more complex lists, especially where semicolons are needed for clarity, the comma is used as in US English.

On another point, in this sentence: “After reflecting on her favorite superheroes, Jenny realized neither Captain America nor the Hulk wore a cape.”, we are tending these days to omit an important word: “… Jenny realized THAT neither …”. It’s implied, of course, but there are many occasions where the omission obscures the meaning of the sentence. Common sense will tell you, on proofreading, when omitting THAT leaves an ambiguity.

Comment provided October 26, 2012 at 9:44 AM

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Peter Nehemia writes:

Yes, THAT is really intriguing. Just like in my native language. The sentence can indeed be made shorter, but the meaning will be obscured.

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2
Sasangka writes:

Thanks Penny, it enriches me how to write better.

Comment provided October 26, 2012 at 9:56 AM

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3
Jeanne Melanson writes:

I enjoyed reading this article and it inspires me to pay more attention to my own writing. Thank you for sharing your wisdom! Jeanne

Comment provided October 26, 2012 at 3:40 PM

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4
Lance Winslow writes:

I think what I am noticing is the when folks use speech recognition software they tend to do this more, so, they end up with long run-on sentences, which eventually stop making any sense, and then become shallow – even if there is at least some good information within – it just gets drowned out.

Comment provided October 26, 2012 at 6:33 PM

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5
Frances Cahill writes:

Thank you Penny. This is a really useful article. I will using this as a valuable reference! It is an interesting point that David raises about non-US English usage. I discourage my students/clients from using And at the beginning of sentences at all.

Comment provided October 26, 2012 at 6:39 PM

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davidinnotts writes:

Frances, as an English author, I get torn writing internationally because most of my audience will always be US citizens who – I’m sorry to say – have a reputation of poor tolerance of anything not US-originated, including language style. So do I write US-style-and-spelling for everyone, in effect acknowledging US dominance in the world and the futility of trying to be different, or do I assert my own identity and maybe alienate US customers who bristle at non-US usage?

So I’m now tending to write with English spelling, grammar and idiom, but with a sprinkling of American and Australian idiom, which seems to cover all bases. What do the rest of you think?

(An aside – it’s much worse with date formats, where the US idiom is contrary to world usage in all languages, and could be critically confusing. Is 11 Sept 2001 to be written as 9-11-2001 or, as the world elsewhere has it, 11-09-2001. Of course, it’s 9-11 now, wherever you are! The real answer today is to use International Date Format, which computers can natively order correctly: 2001-11-09. I usually name my Word documents beginning with the date this way, and they automatically file in date order even when I have them sorted by name, which is very convenient.)

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davidinnotts writes:

Oh, and I was taught at my English Grammar) school never to begin a sentence with a conjunction like And – in fact, we were punished for doing it! Yet I was always puzzled when we read books as good examples, whose authors broke these rules all the time. It was made clear to us, though, that mentioning the discrepancy was A Bad Thing.

It’s fine to begin appropriate sentences with ‘And’. But to do so frequently would look careless. And poor English. And sloppy. But so effective for emphasis!

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6
Randall Magwood writes:

Terms like “conjunctions” and “joiners” reminds me of why i did poorly in English class in high school. This is a good refresher though… just another great insight I can add to my article marketing repertoire.

Comment provided October 26, 2012 at 7:01 PM

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7
Fred Fishburne writes:

This is a time saving tip. Now, no more wondering. Thank you!

Comment provided October 28, 2012 at 7:47 AM

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8
Tom Nolan writes:

Great series but is it really correct US usage to employ the ‘why’ in this sentence?

‘ – it’s no wonder why his bad cholesterol is so high.’

In the UK, we might write: ‘It’s obvious why ..’ etc.
or, ‘It’s no wonder his bad cholesterol ..’ etc., but it’s considered incompetent to use ‘why’ as you have used it here.

Comment provided October 29, 2012 at 1:38 AM

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9
davidinnotts writes:

Tom, ‘correct’ has several meanings. In essence, ‘semantically correct grammar’ is a notion invented by the Writing Masters (schoolteachers) of the 18th and 19th centuries, with their influence slowly fading over the 20th century. Before the 18th century, people pleased themselves. A few key textbooks tried to codify English as if it were Latin, making rigid rules which schoolteachers were delighted to follow and beat into their pupils. Grammarians and lexicographers never did really agree with these rigid rules, regarding them as a useful beginning and rule of thumb instead, and the very best authors broke the rules all the time – but only with good reason. A useful brief account of all this is in Bill Bryson’s book ‘Mother Tongue’, which I can recommend as a good read on our joint language.

For us as authors, ‘correct’ is NOT exactly what the Grammar Masters taught, but a more relaxed English which most of our readers/customers find easy to read and a comfortable idiom. So sticking to what you may have been taught at school as the ‘only way’ to use English is not the best usage. Instead, as Penny has been showing us in recent posts, the main object is to inform and persuade our target audience, using language they feel comfortable reading. And as I have commented before, you need to attract the whole of your target group, not just some of them. That includes not just those who aren’t much bothered about style, as long as they can understand you, but also those who are rather more pedantic but may well become customers if you don’t put them off.

So that word ‘why’ would probably pass muster in casual language, while it would be considered poor grammar in a scholarly work. If your writing is meant to be seen as authoritative but friendly, better not use such a casual idiom. But if your style is more casual, it’s OK.

Comment provided October 29, 2012 at 10:40 AM

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10
Tom Nolan writes:

David, thanks for your detailed, well-considered and impeccably written reply.

I agree with all your points but after taking issue with my criticism, you seem to agree with me in your final paragraph – ‘If your writing is meant to be seen as authoritative but friendly, better not use such a casual idiom.’ Surely ‘authoritative but friendly’ perfectly describes Penny’s article?

Comment provided October 31, 2012 at 6:49 AM

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11
davidinnotts writes:

Tom, thank you for your succinct, non-contentious and almost grammatically-perfect response.

Maybe the question here is to decide whether Penny wants to be preachy or peachy (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxJIHpiKweQ). Seriously, I’m sure that in writing for her cadre of authors, Penny would want to appear friendly without losing authority. So the occasional use of what we old fogies used to call ‘slang’ is appropriate – and I’m referring mainly to her own prose, rather than the made-up or culled-from-real-life examples that she uses.

Maybe Penny should answer this herself. Penny, is the word ‘why’ as you used it in the example text here poor grammar in the US, or an acceptable idiom?

Comment provided October 31, 2012 at 11:09 AM

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12

Great post. Thank you very much

Comment provided October 31, 2012 at 9:26 PM

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13
Lance Winslow writes:

Personally, as a reader, I am much more concerned with important information and content, than perfect diction, grammar, and spelling from a skilled and educated writer. For the simple reason that those in the real world make it happen and those who teach, well, they teach and guard the rule book – just like lawyers often do. So, if someone has excellent knowledge and wisdom, bathed in actual experience that’s what I look for, now if their grammar is perfect to boot, all the better, but not a criteria for me as a reader, it’s just a bonus in my opinion.

Still, even if my above paragraph is not perfectly gramatically correct, so what, I mean you got the message right?

Comment provided November 1, 2012 at 3:01 AM

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14
davidinnotts writes:

You’re absolutely right, Lance.

The problem isn’t an obsession with perfection, though – and there’s plenty of argument anyway over what’s ‘perfectly correct’. The problem is just as you said: “important information and content” matters.

The trouble is, even if people do have problems with grammar and spelling themselves, they know good English when they see it. And sloppy use of English tends to lead to confusion and misunderstanding and lowers your reputation with your audience – or at least, enough of them to matter. That’s why Penny has been giving us this series.

An Expert Author wants to communicate accurately and with passion to the target audience, so making sure that your “important information and content” will be understood by them just as you intended is one of the key aims in your editing of your article. That means checking the spelling and grammar for errors and inconsistencies. The second aim is to attract, so the style and idiom of your writing is just as important and in need of proofreading and editing after you’ve written it, as the grammar.

Now, just as a minor example, look back at your last sentence above. Is there a difference between “you got the message right?” and “you got the message, right?” There is, of course. But in this case, it’s the emphasis of the voice in your reader’s head as she read, rather than a completely different meaning, which it might be in other cases. Can I suggest that both possibilities are important? Add that little comma, and your readers will get a different idea of the ‘tone’ of your piece. And that matters.

Comment provided November 1, 2012 at 7:10 AM

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15
Lance Winslow writes:

I see your points and I hear your voice. I feel as if when we write, we must quence the taste of our reader or it just doesn’t feel right.

Yes, I missed that comma, but it actually works both ways in that particular case. I actually like the ambiguity there, may was well keep the reader on their toes. I wish sometimes I didn’t have such a disdain for writers, lawyers, bureaucrats, teachers, and experts, I wonder if I will ever get over that?

Comment provided November 1, 2012 at 8:02 AM

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davidinnotts writes:

Hmm… Disagree, Lance. You’re writing here to convince, aren’t you? Each ambiguity can leave a reader confused, or at least of divided mind. And if you’re selling a product or a message, that’s bad for your intent.

Only rarely is it good to “keep the reader on their toes.” Most commonly, you want to keep them happy to read along and eventually convict them that your issue is important. This, you hope, will be leading them to some kind of action – whether it’s buying your product or remaking the world!

Now, a philosophical, let’s-throw this-idea-around post: that’s different.

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16
Lance Winslow writes:

Well, I’d say that most people online, especially for online articles do more skimming than anything, thus sometimes grammar becomes far less important than purported by English teachers. Further, I would submit to you that in normal interaction and conversation, very few people talk in a gramatically correct fashion, and the Internet especially with the more recent advent of social networking we are noticing a more conversational tone.

So, I’d tend to believe that it is “Content and Information” first, and spelling rules and grammar later. Indeed sometimes it seems to be an after thought, not only in the text messaging world of rapid deployment, but also as the virtual digital world becomes one with all we are and all we’ve built.

Lastly, if one worries too much about grammar and rules — especially at the onset, that is to say before such things become habit or better yet a reflex — then they will limit their ability of expression and severely dampen their ability to convey a message or information. Such hestation by new writers does a disservice to the Internet — the greatest communication device ever created — and thus, both reader and writer lose out in the exchange.

As a writer becomes more proficient, and better at editing, and using complex phrases and combined thoughts in one string of sentences or coordinated conjunctions then by all means they should do their utmost to attempt to stay within the fuzzy boundaries of what is considered good grammar by folks like you.

I’d also contend that we are limiting thought by forcing everyone into an archaic set of rules, most of which were written prior to speech recognition software, text messaging, or even the Internet for that matter, and it isn’t wise or beneficial to mankind to do so in my humble opinion and observation as a communicator of sorts for the last 3.5 decades, 28,111 articles, and 12 million words later. By those are my thoughts on this topic. What say you?

Comment provided November 1, 2012 at 8:50 PM

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davidinnotts writes:

I agree, Lance. Content and information come first, and using grammar correctly is vital only in so far that it achieves them. Being pedantic just irritates people, though misinforming them with bad English usage will probably irritate them more if the consequences matter to them!

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17
Lance Winslow writes:

I’d say concentrate on the “Flow” of the words and trade of information, and the deficit of grammar knowledge eventually tends to take care of itself. Some in economics.

Comment provided November 28, 2012 at 5:40 PM

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18

I’m going with Lance on this one, grammar will usually take care of itself once you get into the flow with your words. Your writing has to have a conversational tone.

Comment provided January 22, 2013 at 12:26 PM

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