A quick guide to honesty and clarity when using the word “but”

Let’s discuss but. (I’m not talking about the word “butt” because butts are awesome.) It seems like such a small word, “but.” three letters alone. Only a conjunction. Can it really hurt you? But is a conjunction that is utilised to introduce a contrary idea to what has just been said. This is OK unless when the word “but” is used in tricky conversations. For instance, through excuses, criticism, and other subtle forms of human communication. In the middle of a phrase, the word “but” can make all that came before it irrelevant. Because there are so many idiomatic and alternative ways to use “but,” it requires care to ensure that the message is understood. Here, I want to concentrate on when to use the word “but” in conversation.

Being aware of the subtleties of the word “but” and how you use it will improve the sincerity and clarity of your communication. Knowing when to use “but” can also make it easier for you to recognise a false apology or a remark that contradicts itself. Examples of perfectly appropriate usages for the word “but”

  • Every day but Monday I am available. (I believe the word “except” would sound better.)
  • Despite being wealthy, he is unhappy.
  • I can’t afford both, only one. (It’s also acceptable to omit the word “but” in this instance)
  • Mary is present, but Tom isn’t.
    You see what I mean.

Let’s now look at some less-than-ideal instances of the word “but” using some typical examples:


  • “I wish I could be with you, but I can’t,” classic phrase No, you don’t love him, girl. You would be with him if you loved him. She’s attempting to lessen the blow here. In this case, both parties presumptively believe both claims to be accurate. There is a lot of uncertainty here. Exercise: Reconsider the statement’s meaning by replacing the word “but” with “and.”
  • “I want to be with you, but I can’t,” We are now moving forward. The first clause of the statement is not diminished by the substitution of “and” for “but.” The value of both clauses is the same. Now the speech is more understandable. Maybe the phrase doesn’t actually communicate to her lousy boyfriend what she wants when these clauses are equal in importance. Perhaps the “I love you” is made overly profound by the use of “and.”
  • “I used to love you, but I don’t any more. I can no longer be with you. Much improved. She came to understand that if she didn’t follow the ‘I love you’ with a ‘but,’ she wasn’t making the necessary point. She felt compelled to say it at first because she still had feelings for the person, as she used to adore them. But saying it right now is unnecessary. She now sounds like an adult who is conscious of her emotions and respects the person she is breaking up with, as opposed to passive-aggressive and hesitant. Although it could seem harsh, it is clear. Each side is aware of where they stand.


  • “I apologise that you feel that way, but __,”
  • “I apologise for what I did, but __,”
  • “I apologise if my words offended you, but _

They’re not apologetic at all, I assure you. It is simple to understand things in this “fill in the blank” approach. It might not be so obvious in the heat of the moment. The use of the word “but” always invalidates an apology. What it actually says is: “I’m saying sorry because it’s expected of me in society, but deep down, I think I’m right and not at fault. I can’t help but express my ideas because I am a human and even if it is unnecessary in this situation. The easiest method to apologise is to simply say it out loud and leave it at that. If you must use a “but,” at least attempt saying the apology with a “and” instead. Then you’ll either realise that you sound stupid or you’ll have the insight you need to rethink the circumstance and compose a more sincere apology.

Excuses that don’t actually qualify as excuses – We’ve developed the bad habit of apologising when it’s unnecessary to do so. I apologize, but it won’t work. The act of stating a fact does not require an apology. For whatever reason, saying “I’m sorry” to soften a harsh sentence is considered courteous. Find more nice nonsense! Or refrain from using any and instead highlight advantageous details and promote seeking an alternative solution.

Discreet Apologies

“If my observation or comments regarding what they are apologising for>, as well as insert unneeded detail about circumstance>, offended you, I apologise. But I do think that [insert broad statement about current global issue that validates their past harmful statements they are purportedly apologising for]” This is only one excellent illustration of a clever “but” apology. This tricky sentence combines an if/then clause with a “however!” Even the final sentence, which is confusing, is added. fancy things. Recognize that this apology is meaningless and that the speaker wasn’t primarily motivated by a desire to apologise.

But I must use the word “but”

OK: You are in a position where you can legitimately say both something negative and something favorable, and those two things are tied to one another. Consider the sequence of your phrases. It is always preferable to use a positive statement AFTER the “but.” For instance: While the result wasn’t ideal, we’ll definitely improve on it the next time. Although it has been irritating and challenging to work with the other team, we are coming up with a better strategy for our teams to connect and collaborate more effectively. I had a great time despite being completely uncomfortable.

No one is perfect.

All of us misuse the word “but” (including myself). Being an imperfect human means having flaws. Even when I was writing this piece, I had to delete out numerous instances of the word “but” and other ambiguous grammar rules. It’s crucial and worthwhile (if frequently fruitless) to strive for honesty and clarity, especially in written and digital communication. Everyone will occasionally be misinterpreted. Tone and sentiment are usually misconstrued. Making the smallest changes, such as paying closer attention to how words like “but” are used, will only be beneficial.

Hi, I’m Garima and I write about life experiences. I have several books available on Amazon. Check them out today! Any purchases or KDP reads will be greatly appreciated. If you like my books, do leave a review. Here’s my author page on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0BQDZXYNV


8 Comments Add yours

  1. janalanmckenzie says:

    I did a speed read of your post but that won’t do. It deserves more of my attention. Thanks for the grammar lesson. I know I need them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. GS says:

      Let me know what you think or more examples of where we can better use the word “but”. Thank you for stopping by.


      1. janalanmckenzie says:

        I’m not sure I can add any more on the grammar or syntax of “but”, so I’ll content myself to leave it in your able hands

        I would, however, like to offer a word of appreciation for this thought: “It’s crucial and worthwhile (if frequently fruitless) to strive for honesty and clarity, especially in written and digital communication”.

        One of my failings when using social media, when writing posts, is to let the first draft loose into the wild. Had you done that here you would have created a parody of yourself. But because you took the time to rewrite you effectively and persuasively communicated your ideas.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. GS says:

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feedback. Much appreciated.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. johncoyote says:

    I agree. But, is a flat word. Like something coming, we do not want to hear. I enjoyed your wisdom. I have been going to a poetry workshop. I learn, less periods and more character. Thank you and good evening from Michigan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. GS says:

      Thank you John for taking time to read my post. Knowing the nuances of the word ‘but’ and being conscious of how you use it will make your communication more clear and sincere. Knowing how ‘but’ can used will also help you spot an insincere apology or contradictory statement quickly.


  3. sicetnon3 says:

    It seems the word is often associated with a division or separation somewhere in time. Perhaps it might be eliminated from our vocabulary, but that would be discriminatory. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. GS says:

      Hahhaha good use of but there


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