A Room of One's Own Questions and Answers
by Virginia Woolf

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Woolf opens her essay "A Room of One's Own" with the conjunction “But.” Why does she do this? What is the effect? Is this considered good use of English writing conventions?

Woolf opens her essay with the conjunction "but" to anticipate objections to her essay's theme: the relationship between a room of one's own and women's fiction. Opening with "but" conveys the idea that readers are coming into the middle of a conversation. It also signals that the topic of women and fiction is more complex than it seems. "But" is not a conventionally "good" word with which to begin an essay. Woolf is deliberately pushing boundaries.

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Woolf's long essay opens as follows:

But, you may say, we asked you to speak about women and fiction—what has that got to do with a room of one’s own?

By opening with "but" and a question Woolf imagines being asked, she addresses from the start the theme of her essay: the connection between women's fiction and a room of one's own. She is anticipating objections. On the surface it looks as if the two topics have nothing to do with each other. Why would we be interested in hearing about rooms when we came to a women's college to hear a talk...

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