What’s an English teacher to do?
I have the Associated Press’ app on my phone and I frequently check it to stay up-to-date on current events. I often (and by often, I would estimate sixty percent of the time) notice one recurring problem: missing words. However, last night after reading a story about Facebook, I noticed another problem: sentence fragments.
And I get it. An intentional sentence fragment can add spark and sentence variety to a piece of writing, but the key is whether the fragment is written for its effect or… is it just an error?
I’ll let you be the judge, but I think these sentence fragments are errors on the part of the writer. I took the screenshot below and circled the two fragments in question.
The top fragment, actually a dependent clause, should be joined to the independent clause before it, by lower-casing the W on which, and changing the period after installed to a comma. Intentional fragments that start with which are tricky; they don’t offer the bluntness or the spark that other intentional fragments do.
In the bottom fragment, things are more tricky. Though and although are basically interchangeable (although is usually considered more formal), which means both words can be used to begin a dependent clause, which would then be attached to an independent clause. In this case, however, there is no independent clause, and an unintentional fragment is the result.
Of course, in this case, a writer could use some artistic license. For example, in this explanation from Stack Exchange, “A writer might take liberties and use though as… a subordinate clause separated from its main clause by a period… for effect, especially with a long main clause and an impactful subordinate clause.” And then Stack Exchange provides this example: Every morning from then on she would set out from her cabin at dawn to wander through the forest, enjoying the smell of pine and the sweet relief of solitude. Though she never completely forgot Ted.
As for impact, Though she never completely forgot Ted certainly is more compelling than Though media watchers remain skeptical that Facebook is really committed to helping sustain the news industry. Furthermore, I believe the impact derives from the shorter length of the clause. Simply put, six words provides more impact and rhythm and variety than sixteen.
So who cares?
Well, as an English teacher, many kids unknowingly write unintentional sentence fragments. All the time.
Who could blame them? When what they read out in the real world contains poor grammar, it plants the seeds of poor grammar in their own writing.
And yes, the 24/7 news cycle isn’t helping either. When stories are churned out every few hours or so, being timely — and not quality-oriented — receives the emphasis. So, it’s understandable what might be causing these writing issues.
Still, the Associated Press needs to improve its proofreading. When missing words and sentence fragments are allowed to creep into its stories, it causes me to doubt the credibility of its reporters’ sources, the quoted material they use, their claims to unbiased reporting, and other aspects of quality journalistic writing.
Thanks for reading again this week! I just noticed this confusion and thought I would try to make sense of it in the context of teaching grammar. I also suppose that this could be turned into a mini-lesson on fragments, specifically the confusion that exists in using although and though.
Feel free to leave a comment — especially if I’ve been unclear or am mistaken — and follow my blog for more posts about teaching high school ELA.