Fragments are incomplete sentences that lack one or more of the essential elements required to make a complete thought. They may be missing a subject, a predicate, or both. Fragments are often used in informal writing or in speech, but they are not considered proper sentence structure in formal writing.
Should you be afraid of them? Or not use them?
Not President Joe Biden – he used them a number of times in his inaugural address.
Not UK ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair – he used them effectively in his many speeches.
Not Shonda Rhimes, writer and creator of Grey’s Anatomy – she used them eloquently in her commencement address at Dartmouth College.
Not well-known writers from Joyce Carol Oates to Isabel Allende.
Not Toastmasters members in their storytelling and speechmaking, informational or conversational.
They use fragments with resonance, notwithstanding any unflattering reactions from classic and purist grammarians, academic writers, or legal writers.
Yes, fragments exist.
They can be a word. Or they can be group of words without subject or predicate, and without complete thought. They come in many forms, such as
· Prepositional phrases,
· Infinitive phrases,
· Gerund (“-ing”) phrases,
· Dependent or subordinate clauses,
· Relative pronoun fragments,
· Inclusive phrases,
And many more.
For example, the following are examples of sentence fragments:
- Running down the street.
- Without a doubt.
- Because I said so.
- Until the end of time.
- On the other hand.
While fragments are generally considered incorrect sentence structure in formal writing, they can be used effectively in creative writing or for stylistic purposes. Fragments can be used to create a sense of immediacy or to emphasize a particular point.
Many writers and speakers use fragments for a number of reasons:
· To create emphasis.
· To improve readability.
· To foster better listening and understanding.
· To create a unique style.
· To save space.
· To reaffirm a previous point.
· To heighten an emotion.
· To catch the readers’ or listeners’ attention.
For example, consider the following sentence:
- “Suddenly, the lights went out and everything went dark.”
Now consider a fragment that could be used to create a sense of urgency:
- “Darkness. Total darkness.”
This fragment creates a sense of immediacy and emphasizes the suddenness and impact of the lights going out.
Fragments are common in daily communication, particularly in spoken language. We often use fragments when we speak informally with friends, family, or colleagues. In these contexts, we are not expected to follow strict grammar rules, and fragments can be used to convey meaning more efficiently and effectively.
It’s hard to imagine poetry or songs without fragments. Can you imagine titles or headlines without fragments? They make them catchy. It’s hard to imagine dialogues without fragments. It’s hard to imagine commercials without fragments.
Fragments can be acknowledged by using them the way President Joe Biden used them in his inaugural speech. Check how he used them for style and emphasis:
“It will never happen. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.”
The usage of fragments could be the norm. Toastmasters should not avoid them as their speeches become stories.
Be someone allured by fragments. Their realm should be embraced. Without guilt. Without fear.
After all, familiarity breeds confidence.
Written by Arnold C. Pablo, Milpitas Toastmasters