Since I’m on this linguistic kick, meaning last week’s randomness was about language if that makes this a kick, I’ll keep it going. Our son is here from out of town so I’ll also keep this short and sweet. It’s probably a hectic week for you, too.
Let’s talk quickly about the word ‘but.’ It’s a conjunction, which is to say it joins two phrases into a single sentence. Helpful, and certainly innocent enough. Wait, ‘and’ is also a conjunction. So there must be a distinction between the two. Digging deeper, indeed… ‘But’ introduces something contrasting with what was just mentioned, while ‘And’ connects words that are meant to be joined. Hmm. Okay, okay duh. Really, though. I want to repeat that little tidbit if nothing else than for dramatic effect:
‘But’ introduces something contrasting with what was just mentioned.
Why, then, do we use it so often? Are we constantly talking about something and then instantly contradicting ourselves? Is this phrase of speech really that useful, or have we somehow just become habituated with using it? The best example of how ridiculous this actually sounds happens to be the simple little phrase, 'Yes, but…'. What the heck!? Yes, but no???
Here’s the deal: ‘But’ ends a conversation, a thought, or a compliment, while ‘And’ keeps all those going.
Here’s a challenge: Like the ‘Ahh’ counter in a Toastmasters meeting, tally up the times you use the word ‘But.’ Too much? How about just becoming aware of how often you use it. Eventually, become hyperaware. It’s funny because, having done this as I developed my communication, I’ve realized I don’t need to use it very often.
Bonus: The outcome can be pretty cool. Start by giving a compliment, the person listening anticipates the but, BUT!… you disappoint them by not saying it! Boom.
ps… In case you're wondering, this scored a Grade 5 in the Hemingway Editor, and has 12 adverbs (4 too many, I guess)...