Sunday, August 26, 2012

A recurring problem for me with grammar is my constant use of sentence fragments. It's not necessarily a problem I want to fix. Starting sentences with "but," "and,""so," no subjects. . .

I can remember way back to high school arguing with an English teacher about "But." I showed him several examples from modern literature wherein the author used,"But" at the beginning of a sentence. That old English teacher wasn't going for it. Wouldn't let me do it. See -- a sentence fragment. Dropping the subject. For emphasis, I suppose.

I've read too many modern novels and poetry. Did Hemingway effectively use sentence fragments? Yes. He wrote dialog true to our speech patterns Sure did. What about Stein, Salinger, Vonnegut, Joyce, Brautigan? Can't remember. But I'm certain it's from reading their novels and others that I picked up the habit.

It distresses, confuses, perhaps angers English teachers. Out comes the red pen and they start crossing out, adding subjects, putting "sent. frag." above "And" and "But." A lot of red ink used on my writing! So, is it a habit I want to break? Not for informal writing. But essays and academic writing? I now know better and can restrain myself, self-correct, take out the red pen on myself, edit. I am able to write full sentences, but it's with compunction and a sense of defeat.

Have I picked up patterns of spoken speech, used them de rigueur, with abandon, unconsciously, consciously? I suppose so. Am I sorry about it? I don't think so. Old habits die hard. Don't they?


  1. I am glad that you feel that way! I constantly think similar thoughts when I am writing. Authors write "incorrectly," but get rewarded, and we get reprimanded for writing the same way. Once they have built a name for themselves, they gain so much more freedom and create their own grammar rules. I envy them. I wish I could write however I chose, ignoring the grammar rules we have learned, and produce a piece of writing that people admire and applaud. There are even some little-known authors who use improper grammar and yet, they still get their books published. The content and creativity of how you misuse grammar decides how people will take it, and if they will accept it. I believe you can still sound intelligent and interesting in your writing while using sentence fragments. Even if they are technically incorrect.

  2. what a great blog, Linda--and a wonderful response, Chelsea! Of course, you're absolutely right about these old saws (e.g., never begin a sentence with "But"). I wish I could say that things have changed in school since we were there, but alas! it hasn't. Yay for the Internet--which brought us email, blogs, threaded discussions, etc. etc. We now have so many more avenues for expression, plenty of places to play, to practice, to grow...

    Love how you took the pattern-of-the-week and ran with it, patterning not just adjectives in subject-linkingverb sentences, but all kinds of structures and sentence patterns.

    Dunno if this blog is gonna help you write your Final Reflection because you're totally aware of what constitutes a fragment. Maybe you could say what you really want to get from the course and why you're here? Yeah, I know, but the rest of the class doesn't; if they did, they might be able to give you some helpful insights.