Ramsden.Info - Proper English Usage

But-but-but-you should know better

Technical Writing Basics (Ramsden.info - TW102)

Understanding proper English usage

The word 'but' is (too commonly) being used inappropriately to join similar clauses where the word 'and' would more than adequately suffice. The word 'but' has a slight negative connotation, and should properly only be used to join two clauses that describe a condition, and introduce a subsequent contradiction to the condition.  For example:

    "Sniffing aerosol cans can be dangerous, but spraying the contents into your eye may cause blindness."

All too often, the word 'but' is used inappropriately to join two non-contradictory statements. For example:

    "The results for the past financial year are very pleasing, but the next year will be better."

Importantly, when talking about financial results (with the intent of maintaining or raising support), any negative connotations may cause negative reactions. Being aware of such possibilities, and using them to advantage, is the realm of the skillful writer. Consider this updated example:

    "The results for the past financial year are very pleasing, and the next year will be better."

Not a brilliant sentence by itself, but the negative connotation (associated with the word 'but') has been removed. (The previous sentence is a prime example of the proper use of the word 'but'.)

It's a small difference in language usage, however, it is the accumulated small differences that create the big difference. It is the appropriate use of typography, grammar, spelling, language, and content, that make or break the communication.

Websites, online help and printed manuals all use typography in their visual elements, and utilise grammar, spelling, and language to convey their content.  Any innaccuracies in any of these criteria, will cause problems in the communication of the information being presented.  We provide technical writing services that go further than just writing technically about your thing-a-me-jig. We can structure your documentation to convey your message positively, as well as accurately. If you require the services of proper technical writing, please consider us


If you feel a strong enough conviction to comment on the opinions expressed in this topic, please contact the author with your view by email, or by post.  The author of this topic is Australian and uses Australian spelling, grammar and locale date settings.