Section 2.4

Beginning a Sentence with "Because"

The Because Myth

Why do so many teachers tell students not to begin sentences with because? After all, this writing “rule” was — and is — bad advice, ignored by good writers everywhere.

Presumably, some teachers believe this prohibition to be legitimate, but others may view it as a practical means to an end, without necessarily believing it to be a requirement for good grammar. Consider, after all, the favorite question of every small child: “Why?” The answer, inevitably, begins with because. Left to their own devices, many children will write things like the following:

I like going to the beach. Because there are waves.

The problem with the second piece — because there are waves — is not that it begins with because, but that it is a fragment, a mere piece of a sentence. But if grade school or junior high school teachers tried to offer their students a grammatical explanation of when they could begin with because and when they couldn’t, it might sound something like this: “You may begin with because if your dependent clause is followed by an independent clause, but if your sentence consists of a single clause, you may not begin with because.”

Phew! After a generation of inadequate grammar instruction in many American schools, blank stares, not illumination, would be the likely result of this explanation. Some teachers may find it easier to issue a blanket edict against beginning with because, hoping that somewhere in their students’ educational futures, another teacher will clarify the issue in more detail.

Unfortunately, for many people that moment never arrives. The result is that this misconception continues to keep writers from expressing their ideas as directly and powerfully as they might.