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Beginning sentence with "for"

 
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jotham



Joined: 16 Nov 2006
Posts: 507

PostPosted: Tue Sep 14, 2010 4:57 pm    Post subject: Beginning sentence with "for" Reply with quote

This was written by a native writer from South Africa. It was too long, so I was given the task of reducing it and connecting it together. It's weird because given the length of four sentences, I couldn't make a proper conclusion, and I kept all the sentences that had target vocabulary in it. For the last sentence, I thought "for" was the best word. The Taiwanese students know conjunctive "for," but the Taiwanese editor was concerned that the kids had not seen it at the beginning of a sentence before (even though she admits this to be acceptable writing), and fears they may get confused.
Quote:

Turkey is one of many meats full of B vitamins, which help boost energy and ease stress. These nutrients also help repair DNA and keep your cells healthy. And owing to the fact that turkey is one of the leanest sources of protein, you won’t gain weight, either. For a three-ounce portion of skinless turkey breast has only 0.2 grams of saturated fat.



The Taiwanese editor wanted to replace "for" with "for example," but I thought that didn't fit perfectly. I suggested "in fact," which is where we are now. But I still think "for" is stylistically better. I argued with her that since students can easily understand "and" or "but" at the start of sentences, it isn't such a big leap starting one with "for." But she won't have any of it. Could anyone think of a better transition word, or other solution (without changing sentences so much as to lose vocabulary)?
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
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Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Tue Sep 14, 2010 7:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How about removing the 'for' totally and replacing it with just a colon or dash? (Read: inference). That is, meaning relationships can be signalled with punctuation rather than explicit (or, indeed, "confusing", cluttering) words.
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
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Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 4:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually, I don't generally like starting sentences with "And" either. I think you could leave it off. "For a three-ounce portion of skinless turkey breast has only 0.2 grams of saturated fat." does not seem like a complete sentence to me. It could be attached to the sentence before as was just suggested, using punctuation.
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jotham



Joined: 16 Nov 2006
Posts: 507

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 6:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

fluffyhamster wrote:
How about removing the 'for' totally and replacing it with just a colon or dash? (Read: inference). That is, meaning relationships can be signalled with punctuation rather than explicit (or, indeed, "confusing", cluttering) words.

Oh, I forgot to tell you some of the parameters. There must be four sentences (they are numbered and split in different lines), but work together as though a paragraph.

Originally, I edited it this way, but the editor told me it wouldn't work, because I have to keep four sentences intact...

and owing to the fact that turkey is one of the leanest sources of protein, (a three-ounce portion of skinless turkey breast has only 0.2 grams of saturated fat), you won't gain weight either.


Last edited by jotham on Wed Sep 15, 2010 6:37 am; edited 1 time in total
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jotham



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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 6:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lorikeet wrote:
Actually, I don't generally like starting sentences with "And" either. I think you could leave it off. "For a three-ounce portion of skinless turkey breast has only 0.2 grams of saturated fat." does not seem like a complete sentence to me. It could be attached to the sentence before as was just suggested, using punctuation.

Yes, that "and" is a little funny. I suppose fluidness between sentences still remains without it. Thanks...

Actually, there is a debate about whether "for" is a subordinate or coordinate. Many people think it makes an incomplete sentence because in their mind, they simply substitute "because" for "for," but "for" is a completely different animal.

"For" has a rich tradition of starting sentences because it's always been the view that "for" belongs to an independent clause, and not a subordinate one. Today, however, it seems descriptivists go with the subordinate interpretation, while prescriptivists stick with the coordinate interpretation, true to tradition and still modern usage.

I guess it's kind of like the "didn't used to" clause. Descriptivists look at it superficially, try to overanalyze it that way, and then prescribe their views about how they think it should go after such hard analysis -- all the time while ignoring actual usage.

I think that's why "for" has such a bad rap for being archaic. It's because so many people just try to substitute "for" for a "because" clause, and it often sounds very odd, because "for" doesn't really work with clauses that are obviously intended to be dependent, even though the causal nature of their meaning is similar.
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ouyang



Joined: 28 Oct 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wouldn't classify "for" as subordinate or coordinate conjunction in your sentence. I think it is being used as a disjunctive adverb. It's an antiquated disjunctive adverb and out of place in a scientific description.


"Those were the days, my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way
La la la la la la
La la la la la la"

"Through the door there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name
Oh, my friend, we're older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same..."
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
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Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 8:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just find it a bit ironic that English that is supposedly being made easier for students ends up giving them, as Ouyang says, somewhat 'antiquated' English. But if you are forced to write within perhaps too-strict parameters ('You must use four sentences here' etc), it isn't surprising that things can end up sounding a bit stilted!

Quote:
I guess it's kind of like the "didn't used to" clause. Descriptivists look at it superficially, try to overanalyze it that way, and then prescribe their views about how they think it should go after such hard analysis -- all the time while ignoring actual usage.

Not that one again! I think you know what the majority viewpoint here is on this by now, and as JTT said somewhere, 'It's been done to death'. I agree with you though in principle about the use of '(F)or' though (i.e. I would for a start at least note what punctuation was being used by a writer).

By the way Jotham, I'm not sure about your first comma here (that is, I don't think I myself would use it):
Quote:
and owing to the fact that turkey is one of the leanest sources of protein, (a three-ounce portion of skinless turkey breast has only 0.2 grams of saturated fat), you won't gain weight either.
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jotham



Joined: 16 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2010 9:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ouyang wrote:
I wouldn't classify "for" as subordinate or coordinate conjunction in your sentence. I think it is being used as a disjunctive adverb.

I say "tomato," and you say "solanum tuberosum." Well, I won't complain, just as long as the result is the same.

Quote:
It's an antiquated disjunctive adverb and out of place in a scientific description.


It's still being employed at the beginning of sentences in well-written journals. The lyrics of that song aren't antiquated.

Is the context of my essay so scientific? Perhaps, but not really academic. Even so, "for," like "thus," is perhaps used more where some principles of logic are present, or in flowing narrative. It isn't effective for dialogue, or speaking with one another. But I wouldn't go so far as to call it antiquated. I think it's similar, in this regard, to "thus."


Last edited by jotham on Thu Sep 16, 2010 9:20 am; edited 1 time in total
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jotham



Joined: 16 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2010 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

fluffyhamster wrote:
I agree with you though in principle about the use of '(F)or' though (i.e. I would for a start at least note what punctuation was being used by a writer).

I'm surprised I'm finding so much agreement here with descriptivists. I was just sure this would be one of those few points prescriptivists and descriptivists disagree, and vehemently. Just remember not to blame the prescriptivists for saying stilly rules like "don't start a sentence with 'for.'" It ain't us! At any rate, I had heard that Schwann(?) had stated it to be subordinate.

Quote:
By the way Jotham, I'm not sure about your first comma here (that is, I don't think I myself would use it):
Quote:
and owing to the fact that turkey is one of the leanest sources of protein, (a three-ounce portion of skinless turkey breast has only 0.2 grams of saturated fat), you won't gain weight either.


Actually, parentheses shouldn't be used here, because parentheses should sound natural when read out loud (which is maybe why I placed the commas there). It is better to have em-dashes, but the editor informed me that students aren't prepared yet to read this. I think that's a cop out -- if they can separate sentences in parenthesis, em dashes aren't that big of a leap. I think she coddles students too much. I believe in immersion -- just give them natural English and let them figure out much of it from context.
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ouyang



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2010 10:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think "poetic" might be more accurate than "antiquated". One of my favorite writers is Will Durant. Some of the sentences in his histories were not actually clauses, at least not finite clauses.

Poetic speech typically strings noun phrases together without clauses. Linking sentences by beginning one with the word "for" strikes me as poetic. I think it expresses a reflective rather than a logical connection between sentences.
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Stephen Jones



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1422

PostPosted: Fri Sep 17, 2010 6:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd change the full stop for a semi-colon and keep the 'for', but that would mess up your sentence count.
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jotham



Joined: 16 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2010 12:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stephen Jones wrote:
I'd change the full stop for a semi-colon and keep the 'for', but that would mess up your sentence count.

Interesting this. And is this based on your own subjective intuition or opinion? I guess what I'm trying to get at, does it seem somewhat oddish to you starting a sentence with "for"? Or do you have sources you're relying on?

I'm also curious on this point. I haven't looked at the corpuses (corpi?) for three years and forgot how to use them. Could someone show me? -- is it possible to find out if "for" is more popular in written publications at the beginning of sentences or midway in the U.S. and U.K.? Is it possible to discover if 1) the usage of "for" and 2) "for" starting sentences is more popular in the States than in the U.K.? -- or is it impossible to compare the corpuses this way?
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 23, 2010 12:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Heh, sort of replied here, Jotham:
http://forums.eslcafe.com/teacher/viewtopic.php?p=42889#42889

Perhaps SJ can give you some tips on how to get the most out of the corpora (COCA, BNC) available from BYU, but I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for him to (that is, why not start browsing the BYU stuff and trying to familiarize yourself with how it works).
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Stephen Jones



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 24, 2010 5:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To discover relative popularity in BrE and AmE you simply compare the Corpus of Contemporary American English with the British National Corpus. Do bear in mind that both cover different time periods, and that the registers used may differ in proportion, so for very recent phrases you may have to be careful.

Quote:
And is this based on your own subjective intuition or opinion?
Yes; I have an inordinate fondness for semi-colons.

The point is that the two sentences are closely linked, and thus a semi-colon seems appropriate.
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jotham



Joined: 16 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 25, 2010 8:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stephen Jones wrote:
Quote:
And is this based on your own subjective intuition or opinion?
Yes; I have an inordinate fondness for semi-colons.

The point is that the two sentences are closely linked, and thus a semi-colon seems appropriate.

Interestingly enough, I've used just exactly semicolons in previous instances of "for" in this textbook, (which were accepted.) And now I'm not sure if it's so much that I like beginning a sentence with "for" or that I dislike using commas with "for."

Is it because that sentence is too long and risks "feeling" like a comma splice or run-on sentence? Or do I just have some personal prejudice against commas that is unreasonable? But semicolons do seem to be a happy medium.
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