Love Those Frags

(Note: I wrote this article in response to a sentence fragment contest I had in a previous issue. I had such a great response and so many interesting comments I thought I'd devote another issue to sentence fragments.)

Let's start with what a sentence fragment isn't:

1. If there is an implied "you" in the sentence, it's not a frag. For instance -- "Sales lagging?" This is not a fragment because there is an implied "you" (Are your sales lagging?).

2. Imperative sentences also are not considered sentence fragments. An imperative sentence is a command "Watch out for long sentences."

3. Headlines don't really count because many times they are not sentences nor are they intended to be. Thus they fall in a different category.

4. The "boiler plate" part of the newsletter was tough to judge. For instance, "Published around the middle of the month" is definitely a frag, but it's not part of the actual articles. So does it count? I'm going to say no -- I think those belong in their own category. I don't punctuate them like sentences, therefore I think they're like headlines.

5. Just because a sentence is short, doesn't make it a frag. "I am." That's a complete sentence. It also happens to be the shortest complete sentence in the English language. It has a subject and a verb. Most fragments are missing either a subject or a verb or both.

6. The close of my Editor's Note "Happy writing" is considered a closing, and therefore not subject to the frag rule. (Sincerely is the same thing -- that's not complete but it's considered grammatically correct to use at the end of a letter.)

Okay, so now that we know what isn't considered a sentence fragment, what exactly is a frag? My editor counted six in that last issue:

  • The rhythm of the words and sentences.(No verb)
  • The start and stop of a period. (No verb)
  • The bated breath of an em-dash. (No verb)
  • Or three. (No noun or verb)
  • Okay, not really. (No noun or verb)
  • A sentence that isn't complete. (No verb)

Boy, after looking at this, I guess my tendency is to leave out verbs.

(By the way, I had two winners who tied with the most -- four.)

Now, a couple of people (who were also editors) e-mailed me back a couple of frags along with commenting on how much they disliked them. That got me thinking. It never occurred to me that people wouldn’t like them. They're casual, comfortable, easy to understand. What's not to like?

Apparently plenty. So then I started wondering, if a writer or editor didn't like frags, what other options did she have to make her style less formal and add more rhythm?

The conclusion I came up with is thta he or she would have to rely more heavily on the other tips I brought up in my last issue -- using short (complete) sentences, staying away from long sentences (even if they are complete) and using a variety of sentence lengths.

If you feel inclined to write in complete sentences, I have a feeling your sentences would have a tendency to all be the same length and that length would most likely be a bit too long. On top of that, you would probably shy away from short sentences. My suggestion would be to be extra vigilant in watching those two areas in your writing.

Creativity Exercises -- No frags

Becoming a good writer means trying on a variety of writing styles, especially styles that don't come naturally to you.

So, here's a quick exercise to help you defrag. And if you're someone who enjoys writing frags (like me) then definitely make time to do this.

1. Think of a quick story. Something that can be told in a few paragraphs. Maybe it's a fairytale or a short childhood memory or something that happened to you yesterday.

2. Write it out. Don't think about the style, just get the story on paper.

3. Now write it again, except this time make sure each and every sentence is both complete and about the same length (medium to long).

4. Write it a third time, and this time make every sentence short and complete. (Like Dick and Jane. See Spot run. Etc.)

5. Compare the two. What emotion does each one evoke? How do they sound? Does it help you see why you would pick a short sentence over a longer one?

6. Now write the story one last time except this time vary the sentence length. How does it compare to the other two? Which variation do you like the most? Why?

If you want, compare the three styles with how you wrote the story the first way, when you weren't concerned with style. Does it sound most like the long-sentence version, the short-sentence version or the varied-sentence version? Of all of them, which one do you think sounds the best?

Michele PW (Michele Pariza Wacek) is your Ka-Ching! Marketing strategist and owns Creative Concepts and Copywriting LLC, a copywriting and marketing agency. She helps entrepreneurs become more successful at attracting more clients, selling more products and services and boosting their business. To find out how she can help you take your business to the next level, visit her site at www.MichelePW.com. Copyright © 2017 MichelePW all rights reserved.

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About Michele

Michele PW

Considered one of the hottest direct response copywriters and marketing consultants in the industry today, Michele PW (Michele Pariza Wacek) has a reputation for crafting copy and creating online and offline marketing campaigns that get results.

Michele started writing professionally in 1992, working at agencies and on staff as a marketing/communication/writing specialist. In 1998, she started her business as a freelance copywriter.

But she quickly realized her vision was bigger than serving her clients as a one-woman-shop. In 2004, she began the transformation to building a copywriting and marketing company.

Two years later, her vision has turned into reality. Michele PW/Creative Concepts and Copywriting LLC is the premiere direct response copywriting and marketing company today, catering to entrepreneurs and small business owners internationally, including the “Who’s Who” of Internet Marketing. Some of their clients include:

Ali Brown
Lisa Sasevich
Brian Tracy
John Assaraf
Bernadette Doyle
Alex Mandossian
Kendall SummerHawk
Alexis Martin Neely

In addition, Michele is also a national speaker and the bestselling author of the “Love-Based Copywriting" books that teach people how to write copy that attracts, inspires and invites. She has also completed two novels.

She holds a double major in English and Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently she lives in the mountains of Prescott, Arizona with her husband Paul and her southern squirrel hunter Cassie.