BUT, Can Changing Just One Word Make You Friendlier?
Note to reader: “Don’t let all of the ‘buts’ get in the way of your thinking!” :-)
What is the difference between and and but? They are both conjunctions. They’re 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’s no formal designation of inclusive and exclusive applied to and and but. OK, so what’s the point?
The point is, 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, isn’t usually as important to the thought being portrayed in the sentence, as that which follows the but. 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.
Have you heard or seen sentences that begin with: “That’s true, but …?” What follows becomes 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 before, 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 compared 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 posts, 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!” :-)
And, BUT what do you think? ;-)