Saturday, July 27, 2013

About Those Sentence Fragments.

I am reading a novel by a best selling, agented, traditionally published author who shall remain nameless. This book -- along with two others I have read by this author -- has enough goofs to make me wonder whether a proofreader or copy editor ever went through it. Specifically, I am seeing too many instances where a sentence contains a word that doesn't belong there, possibly due to the author (or editor?) changing the way the sentence was phrased and forgetting to delete a word from the previous construction.

What bugs me even more about this author is the overuse of sentence fragments in the narrative sections of the book. Not sure what a sentence fragment is? Consult these web pages:

A strict grammarian might insist that one should NEVER use a sentence fragment in professional writing. In my opinion, this is a rule that can and should occasionally be broken as long as the writer is doing it deliberately to achieve a specific effect and as long as it is not done too often in a single piece of writing.

Ah ha. There we are. In the novel I am reading, the author clearly has the "chops" (if you will) to break rules as she sees fit. Unfortunately, by using so many sentence fragments, she destroys any effect she might have been trying to achieve with them. Her prose comes across as choppy. The frequent fragments are almost certain to distract educated readers from the fascinating story, compelling characters, and anything else the book has going for it.

Of course, there are readers who won't even notice. I understand that. Maybe this author (and/or her editor/publisher) is fine with appealing to that audience alone. However, those readers who do notice are likely to be turned off.

My advice to writers: Don't join the Frequent Fragments Club!

An important exception: Dialogue. A whole lot of people speak in sentence fragments. It sounds and is natural. In fact, you can make a character stand out by having him or her speak only in complete sentences!