Starting a Sentence With Plus
by Owen Fourie
I have seen a lot of writing lately where there are sentences beginning with the word plus. For instance,
The director learned that his company was responsible for the injuries suffered by the workers. Plus, there could be no evasion of the responsibility for the compensation that would be required.
Such usage in formal writing is not correct.
The word plus may be used, but don’t let it stand at the beginning of a sentence.
What part of speech is plus?
- It can be an adjective as in “a plus value” when referring to a position on a scale of measurement.
- It can be a conjunction as in arithmetical usage: “two plus two is four”; or as in a description of a person: “Her innate charm plus her refined behavior made her a desirable person.”
- It can even be a noun: “The promise of good weather was a plus for their plan to spend the day at the seaside.” However, this usage is more acceptable informally than formally.
Can plus also be a preposition?
In my opinion, although various dictionaries indicate that plus can also be a preposition, the examples that are given seem to confirm its role as a conjunction.
It is possible to substitute the conjunction and for the word plus without radically changing the meaning:
- perquisites plus annual increments;
- perquisites and annual increments
If someone insists that “perquisites plus annual increments” means “perquisites together with annual increments,” it might be necessary to concede a prepositional status to plus.
Is plus a conjunction or a preposition in these sentences?
- The fluctuating market plus the political instability makes me uncertain about traveling.
- Skepticism plus sarcasm makes for an unpleasant audience.
- His determination plus his skill makes him a worthy opponent.
In each of these sentences, we have a noun phrase or a noun on either side of the word plus forming a compound subject.
The verb makes is singular. Since subject and verb must agree in number, in each sentence, the compound subject is being regarded as singular.
Taking a singular subject, we could replace plus with “together with” or “in addition to.”
- Skepticism together with sarcasm makes for an unpleasant audience.
- His determination in addition to his skill makes him a worthy opponent.
Doing this, one could argue that this makes plus a preposition.
If plus is a preposition, then we could begin these sentences with plus.
- Plus sarcasm, skepticism makes for an unpleasant audience.
- Plus his skill, his determination makes him a worthy opponent.
This not only sounds odd, but it is also unacceptable in formal writing.
Substitute and for plus and what do you get?
It is more accurate to regard plus as a conjunction in these sentences.
Substitute the conjunction and, and change the verb to its plural form if you feel that the elements of the compound subject should be taken as plural rather than singular.
- Skepticism and sarcasm make for an unpleasant audience.
- His determination and his skill make him a worthy opponent.
You could, of course, see skepticism and sarcasm as inseparable in a particular kind of audience and take these traits together as singular:
- Skepticism and sarcasm makes for an unpleasant audience.
Don’t start a sentence with plus
Using plus adverbially as a sentence connector seems to be quite common on the Internet:
These three reasons should be enough to convince them of their mistake. Plus, they can hardly deny their responsibility in this matter.
Using moreover or finally instead of plus would be correct and far better.
All in all, it should be obvious to you that the word plus sits uncomfortably at the beginning of a sentence or at the beginning of an independent clause.
There seems to be no justification for such usage. In formal writing, you should avoid using it in that way.
What other words have you been advised to avoid at the beginning of a sentence? What explanations have you been given for not using them in that position? Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.
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