Sentence Combining With FANBOYS

Some writers don’t join their ideas. Each idea ends up in its own sentence. The writer doesn’t use coordinators. The writer doesn’t use subordinators. The writer doesn’t make transitions. This makes the sentences seem “choppy.” The connections between ideas are sometimes unclear to the reader.

When a writer fails to join sentences, it’s a twofold problem: the writing is choppy, making it less pleasant to read, and the connections between ideas are invisible to the reader, making it hard to construct meaning from the text. This kind of problem isn’t uncommon in student writing, but luckily, it’s a problem that can be solved using a variety of sentence combining tools.

In this post, I’m going to focus on the FANBOYS (and no, I don’t mean the type of people who swoon when a new trade paperback volume of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl debuts, though I’m they’re cool too.)

FANBOYS are the seven horcruxes coordinating conjunctions, special words that contain pieces of my immortal soul can join independent clauses (a.k.a. sentences) together. They’re some of the basic nails and screws in our toolkit as writers:


Punctuating with the FANBOYS

To join independent clauses (sentences) with a coordinating conjunction, follow this pattern:

FANBOYS punctuation.jpg

Here’s an example from my personal diary:

FANBOYS example.jpg

Logical Relationships

Each of these words signals a particular kind of relationship between the ideas in the sentences they join. As a writer, you need to choose the right word to express that relationship, or the result will be…


Thanks, Spock.

Most commonly, problems expressing logical relationships arise when the writer uses “and” when they really mean something else. This probably happens because “and” is so damn handy. It’s the screwdriver sitting right there in the top drawer of your toolbox in easy reach — but if you use that screwdriver when the job really calls for a pair of 45-degree hog-ring pliers, your project will go awry, and Ron Swanson will materialize in front of you to sigh heavily and shake his head in disappointment.

ron swanson metaphors.gif
My apologies, sir.
So how should you be using these words?

FANBOYS relationships.jpg

You can also create a nice combined effect using “and yet” or “and so.”

Beginning a Sentence With a Coordinating Conjunction (Is Totally Legit)

Have you ever been told that you can’t begin a sentence with “and”?


If you’ve been avoiding beginning sentences with the FANBOYS because someone told you that it’s wrong, ungrammatical, or will cause the undead to rise from their graves and walk the earth, you’ve been living a lie. Sorry.

Before you begin beginning every sentence with FANBOYS, though, consider this: these words are useful because they can join independent clauses, helping us craft longer, more sophisticated sentences with greater syntactic variety while also making the logical relationships between our ideas clear.

When we instead use these words at the beginning of a sentence, it highlights what is usually a subtle join; if you’ve ever overdone it with the highlighter on a page of text, you know that when you mark everything as significant, none of it really stands out anymore.

This is not a good strategy.
So don’t overdo it.


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