Conjunctions function as connectors in sentences. They join words, phrases, clauses and sentences. Short sentences often weaken the effectiveness of your writing, so by joining short, choppy sentences with conjunctions, the sentence variety is improved, thereby improving the style and flow of your writing.
In the first example below, notice how the style is improved by joining sentences with conjunctions in the second example:
Maria created a resumé. She copied it on expensive, high-quality paper. Her prospective employer was not accepting resumé.
Revision: Maria created a résumé, and she copied it on expensive, high-quality paper, but her prospective employer was not accepting resumé.
(example from Purdue Owl)
In the previous example, the conjunctions “and” and “but” join the sentences, the most commonly used conjunctions. Their use is pretty straightforward; “and” means “in addition to,” and “but” means “yet” or “on the contrary.” However, choosing the appropriate conjunction can sometimes be a bit difficult.
Conjunctions are classified as either coordinating conjunctions, correlative conjunctions, or subordinating conjunctions. We’ll discuss coordinating and subordinating conjunctions below.
Coordinating conjunctions include and, but, or, yet, for, nor, and so. These conjunctions are used when you want to relate equal ideas in a sentence.
They purchased the ranch and they began to raise goats and sheep.
Steve purchased a cup of coffee in the new shop, but the service was quite slow.
Amanda needed yarn for her scarf, so she went to the fabric store.
Subordinating conjunctions are used to emphasize one idea over the other. This means one idea is “subordinate,” or secondary to, the other idea.
Common Subordinating Conjunctions
after although as as if as long as
as though because before even if
even though if if only in order that
now that once rather than since so that
than that though till unless until
when whenever where whereas wherever while
Understanding when to use a coordinating conjunction or a subordinating conjunction can be a bit tricky. The conjunction “and” is often overused, and a sentence would be more clear and effective with a subordinating conjunction. The sentences below show the difference in emphasis when a coordinating conjunction is used as opposed to a subordinating conjunction:
Aqua Blues is a great band and they only recorded one album.
Aqua Blues is a great band, even though they only recorded one album.
The first example is grammatically correct, but the two clauses don’t really carry equal weight. By using a subordinating conjunction, the emphasis is placed on the independent clause (Aqua Blue is a great band).
Note the differences in the examples below when the sentences are revised using subordinating conjunctions:
Example: John practiced the cello and the cat screeched from the porch.
John practiced the cello while the cat screeched from the porch.
Although the cat screeched from the porch, John practiced his cello.
John practiced the cello even though the cat screeched from the porch.
To edit your writing for appropriate use of conjunctions, ask yourself, does the independent clause contain the most important idea you want to convey?:
The textbook was short and had good information.
The textbook was short but had good information.
The textbook was short although it had good information.
Although the textbook was short, it had good information.