You might think I should get out more, but it's a valuable point.

Don't be misled by people who say never use but in your writing. It's too sweeping and you might be missing out on a very handy device.

They say 'but' is negative and anything before the but is just filler.

They do have a point if the boss sits an employee down and says, 'I really like the way you turn up to work on time and tidy your desk at the end of the day, but your thinking and writing skills are far below what we need in this organisation.' The filler before the but just softens him up for the king hit.

But, here's why it's such a useful word...

You can use it to create a contrast. You could write, 'You might be expecting it to be expensive, but it's not' or 'We expected him to finish the project late, but he delivered it a week early.' There's no filling or demoralising zinger at the end.

Orators have used contrasts since at least the time of the Romans. Here's President John F Kennedy beginning his inaugural speech: 'We observe today, not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom.' It's a powerful contrast.

Barack Obama speaking of meeting the challenges ahead: 'They will not be met easily, or in a short span of time. But know this America: - they will be met'. Followed by a burst of applause -as usual with contrasts.

Wouldn't you want but in your tool kit?