Ok, you get an itch. You scratch it a time or two and then think, “I won’t scratch it any more.” But you do. That’s the way use of fragments can get when writing. A fragment now and then sounds catchy, even literary. But once restraint is relaxed, look out, because the fragments can pile up fast.
When drafting, fragments are nothing to worry about. Normal revision will attach a fragment to a neighbor sentence or turn the fragment into a complete thought. For those who fall in love with fragments, or just plain don’t recognize them, however, those dependent word groups can chop up the style in a piece of writing and make it bumpy prose.
This semester, a very expressive student wrote a terrific paper on the 2004 film version of Phantom of the Opera. The paper made a B though because of five fragments. Really, the deduction could have been more, but the paper was so good that I wanted to use it in upcoming courses on Blackboard where I post, with permission, samples from previous students.
I told this student that if she corrected the fragments and stopped using them the rest of the course, I would give her back the lost points (tks to Pat Riley for the idea). She was excited to correct the paper and resubmit it. When the next theme came due, I walked over to her and asked, “Have you checked that for fragments?” She vehemently said yes. Sure enough, I didn’t find a single fragment in that theme when I graded it.