The Value of a Good Sentence

Sentence fragments. More common now. Overused?
Their place? End of a paragraph. Closing exclamation.
Much use anywhere else? Not really.

People converse in sentences, proper and complete, either long or short, blunt or sharp, as dictated by the content and the tone of what they want to say. Sentence fragments are dropped into casual speech because a level of familiarity already exists between the speaker and the listener, but the core of the dialogue is still comprised of sentences. When a narrator is talking to a reader, the need for good sentences is greater because the two participants in the conveyance of the fictional dream do not know one another. There is no level of familiarity that permits sentences to be chopped up and served as quick bites of text, yet there appears to be a growing trend to do so, as if the proper sentence is somehow too safe and sterile to reflect the edginess of the author’s cutting prose.

That is one theory. The other is that too many authors are following a fashion for bad grammar that allows poor writing to be disguised as avant-garde prose, where laziness triumphs over the effort required to create a good sentence, both in the sense of its grammar and its content. The written word should be better than its spoken counterpart, so reading about an argument in a fictional pub should be better than witnessing an actual argument in a real pub.

The building block of all storytelling is a good sentence. We use such a thing when we want to express ourselves clearly via the larynx, so surely we should do the same when conversing via the pen. So make a stand for the solid sentence because it has made you who you are. Your parents used simple ones to teach you to speak, and your schoolteachers used longer ones to educate you further. Resist the false assertion that the sharpness of fragments will add an edge to your prose. Broken furniture does not make for a better home; broken tiles do not make for a better road on which to travel; broken sentences do not make for a smoother fictional dream.


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