I’ve read a couple of books lately that have been rather good, although plagued with something that is becoming the bane of my life as a reader: sentence fragments.
There was one book I started reading a couple of weeks ago where this was rampant, along with other issues, to the point where I couldn’t continue.
A sentence fragment is something that presents as a sentence in that it starts with a capital letter and ends with a period, but doesn’t actually make sense on its own.
A sentence fragment is often added as an afterthought when it really should be tacked onto the previous sentence with either a comma or a semicolon.
Consider the following example:
Jack went into his bedroom and closed the door, preferring privacy for reading his new book. Which was something that he knew annoyed his little brother.
That last sentence fragment actually makes no sense without the previous sentence.
If this happens just once or twice in a book, it’s still too often. However, it happens a lot. To be completely honest, it’s something I mark my senior high school English students down on. It’s what I consider quite a basic error: it’s not that hard to read something you’ve written down and ask yourself if it makes sense.
I understand that some readers don’t notice it, but many others will find it very frustrating indeed.
The exception is in direct speech or train of thought writing. People do speak like that, and they often think in fragments of thoughts, especially when under stress or in pain. If it’s something a character is thinking or saying, there is no problem. When it is part of the narrative, however, it really is an issue.
I don’t want to come across as being all finicky and fussy. My intention is that writers might recognise and self-correct this problem in their writing, even if it means revising an entire manuscript so that their book reads better.
This is also another argument for having any manuscript thoroughly proof-read and edited before you publish anything, especially as an Indie author who wants to be taken seriously as a writer.
In the end it will earn you more stars and more readers.
When your story is great, and your message is important, please don’t allow something that is easily fixed to compromise the success of your book.
Instead, take the time and effort to make sure that your writing, and the overall quality of your book, is the best it can be. You owe it to your readers, and you owe it to yourself.
3 thoughts on “The Problem With Sentence Fragments.”
As an editor, I totally agree! For some reason, fragments are becoming acceptable in professionally edited and published books, and this drives me crazy! I tend to glue fragments back to the preceding sentences, but a lot of authors feel like this “cramps their style.” This is a really interesting issue, and I am glad you brought it up!
Interested to see what other people have to say about it!
I confess to be a ‘fragmenter’ when it suits the pacing of my writing. My POV tends to be 1st person, so the narrative is essentially my protagonist’s thoughts, which include sentence fragments. When writing in the 3rd person, I avoid eschew sentence fragments.
Oops, just noticed the error in the final sentence. It should read, ‘I eschew sentence fragments.’