What is the difference between “and” and “but?” They are both conjunctions. They are also known as co-ordinating conjunctions. One is inclusive (and) and the other is “sort of” exclusive (but). I guess that is a difference. On the other hand, I’m the one who declared the two as inclusive and exclusive conjunctions. As far as I know, there is no formal designation of inclusive and exclusive applied to “and” and “but.” OK, so what’s the point?
The point is that I think “but” forces us to think in such a way that we pay little attention to what comes before the “but.” I realize that I use many sentences with the word “but” and indeed, what I write before the “but” is not usually as important to the thought being portrayed in the sentence as what follows. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to what is before “but”; it means we should know that without what follows the “but,” the sentence is an incomplete thought. You know, those sentences where a person says, “That’s true, but …” What follows is an explanation about why you shouldn’t pay any attention to what was just declared as true. How about, “This is an interesting idea, but …?” What is really being communicated is that the idea is not good and here is why. Ouch!
It’s important for us to realize that certain things we say are almost designed to create conflict. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the word “but” can be conflicting. Replace the word “but” with “and” and we have a much better chance of smooth and conflict free communication. How about, “That’s true, but …” compared to “That’s true and …?” The second sentence sounds like you are respecting what was previously said and not excluding its merit. Or, consider, “That’s an interesting idea, but you could look at it this way” compared to, “That’s an interesting idea and you could look at it this way.” The “and” is friendlier. At least, that’s what I think.
So, why is using “and” friendlier than using “but?” I think it has to do with “and” including what proceeds it as compare to “but,” which seems to exclude what precedes it and directs your attention to what follows. I guess we could call this a big “but” problem! :-)
I know I’m guilty of overusing “but” in my writing. Reading some of my past postings, I’ve noticed some cases where it would have been better to use “and” instead of “but.” I hope that my writing didn’t cause conflict, since an overuse of “but” could cause my readers to be subconsciously hostile. Using the word “and” more, will subconsciously cause agreement. Agreement instead of hostility by the simple use of “and” instead of “but.” Now that’s an easy solution and “no buts about it!” :-)