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See bold (does it modify just the preceding sentence or does it modify everything in the paragraph that precedes it?):

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Regarding the countries that are on America’s sanctions list, there’s nothing but a constant barrage of negative information and there’s a general lack of in-depth and balanced reporting. I’d like to see neutral and interesting coverage about how Russia works and about how Iran works—I’d like to see a serious and balanced look at how China works. But even the New York Times tends to work as a propaganda mill when it comes to these countries.

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Hi, Andrew—"But" doesn't "attach to" anything there except the sentence introduces, nor does it "modify" anything. "But" simply signals a contrast between the content of the sentence it introduces, concerning the NYT's being a "propoganda mill when it comes to those countries," and the previous sentences, concerning your desire for neutral, balanced, in-depth reporting.

Why is "But" in this first example

Regarding the countries that are on America’s sanctions list, there’s nothing but a constant barrage of negative information and there’s a general lack of in-depth and balanced reporting. I’d like to see neutral and interesting coverage about how Russia works and about how Iran works—I’d like to see a serious and balanced look at how China works. But even the New York Times tends to work as a propaganda mill when it comes to these countries.

Not signaling contrast only with the immediately preceding sentence, just like "But" in this second example?

I went to the store. A man there was nice to me. But he was mean to my friend. So I don't want to go back to the store.

There's a sentence that starts with "Regarding", a sentence that starts with "I'd", and sentence that starts with "But"; three sentences.

The sentence starting with "I'd" contains two sentences starting with "I'd." By stringing them together with an erroneous em dash you don't take away their separateness from each other as sentences. You just incorrectly punctuate.

There's some ambiguity about what a "sentence" is.

Let me get around that.

The "But" here doesn't signal contrast against all of square-bracketed bold text:

[I went to the store. A man there was nice to me.] But he was mean to my friend. So I don't want to go back to the store.

So why would the "But" below signal contrast against all of the below square-bracketed bold text (did you mean to suggest that this is the case...I think that maybe I was just confused and you didn't?)?

[Regarding the countries that are on America’s sanctions list, there’s nothing but a constant barrage of negative information and there’s a general lack of in-depth and balanced reporting. I’d like to see neutral and interesting coverage about how Russia works and about how Iran works—I’d like to see a serious and balanced look at how China works.] But even the New York Times tends to work as a propaganda mill when it comes to these countries.


Consider Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

"But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

Do you think his "But" must signal a contrast only with the preceding sentence?

I don't know, but it's really interesting because there are enormous semantic implications at stake.

You could have a "But"/"So" as the first word in a new paragraph.

Or you could have a "But"/"So" as the first word in a new sentence within a paragraph.

In each case the semantic question arises as to what the "But"/"So" points back to; back to the sentence immediately before or back to something else?

I'm not staking out a view on this matter, but it's super interesting.

And you can see in the example that I started this whole thread off with that there's a "But" that might or might not point back to everything in the entire paragraph that precedes the "But".

So it's worthwhile to address this topic; once we address it, the same logic will apply to "But" and "So" and whatever else.

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