Why fragment sentences are okay

In school, we learn that fragments are incomplete sentences and wrong. This can carry over into adulthood. I’ve had a few betas recently tell me to fix a sentence or add words to my story because I had one.

However, as an editor, I don’t fix fragments all the time.

Everything that exists has a purpose, including fragments. They—for me at least—are a great tool for emphasis. When surrounded by longer sentences, they can make an impactful punch.

Here are two examples:

I’m just afraid that one day something’s going to catch me by surprise. Stale coffee. Squares of American cheese. Hard tomatoes, so unripe they’re white in the center. The most innocent things can call back the most terrible.

― Nina LaCour, We Are Okay

“It hurts too much,” Mather says. Just that simple.

That makes me stop. I meet his eyes, a long, careful gaze. “Someday it won’t hurt.”

― Sara Raasch, Snow Like Ashes

Another good reason is for dialogue. Not everyone speaks perfect sentences all the time. Sometimes, we shorten our sentences to emphasize a point, can’t finish a sentence, or get interrupted. Either way, if we use fragments in our speech, why shouldn’t our characters use them as well?

Here are two examples:

Jeren nods solemnly. “That’s what I prefer to do before I had out to certain death,” he signs. “Scowl in a chair.”

― Marie Lu, Skyhunter

“We need to talk,” she said. “All of us. About what we‘re going to do now.”

“I was going to watch Project Runway,” said Jace. “It’s on next.”

― Cassandra Clare, City of Ashes

Sometimes, it’s best to break the rules while writing. Not that this should happen all the time, on every page. But perhaps sprinkle them throughout your story.

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