And What?

In an earlier post, I described the meaning of the word “clause”. We’re going to be looking at the simple, though sometimes confusing word “and”, which connects two clauses, so if you’re unclear what clause means, read this first.

The word “and” is one of the most common conjunctions in English. It’s a simple way of combining two clauses in a logical way. Trouble arises, however, when writers try to fit too much information or incompatible information into a sentence. Here’s the first example:

Charlene was waiting at the bus stop for an hour, and the bench she was sitting on was red.

This is an example of how not to combine information. Even if you’re planning to make the bench color significant, this is not the place to put it, because there is no logical connection between the first clause about waiting for the bus, and the noting of the bench’s color. Instead, use a different structure to combine the information.

Charlene had been sitting for an hour on the cherry-red bench, waiting for the bus.

Since we’re talking about someone sitting on a bench anyway, we can simply place an adjective (cherry-red) on the noun (bench) and we’ve taken care of our problem.

Here’s another (more obvious) example of incompatible information:

The rain is falling more steadily and I have decided to purchase a new suit.

The “and” is attempting to connect rain with buying a new suit in this sentence. Like any rule, there’s a way to explain the sentence (for example the suit has holes in it and the rain is seeping through), but looking at the sentence on its own, there’s simply no way for the reader to make a connection between rainfall and the character’s decision to buy a new suit.