Anonymous Asked: I submitted this question before and I don’t think it got through, or maybe it was a really dumb question, but I wanted to know if it’s true that alliterations and sentence fragments are considered bad writing? Because I use them sometimes but I don’t know if I should anymore.
Despite the fact that these two items, alliterations and fragments, are not directly related, we can handle them together because they are representative of a greater and more helpful point.
Alliteration (n): The occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words.
For example, “Alliteration ameliorates all arguments.”
Fragment (n): A dependent clause that ends in a period; an incomplete sentence.
Fragments are often missing a verb, such as: “He tired.” If the sentence read, “He is tired,” it would not be a fragment.
Often, an added conjunction can make a sentence into a fragment. For example: “Because he is tired.” The word because necessitates another clause to complete the thought. “The boy went to bed because he is tired,” would then be a complete sentence.
So what about usage? Why is it “bad writing” to use these things? Nobody should say that any given technique is bad writing, because rules like those are broken all the time. The reason why people discourage the use of certain elements in writing is because their use (or overuse) often results in problems.
In bad or unsatisfying fiction, [the] fictional dream is interrupted from time to time by some mistake or conscious ploy on the part of the artist… It is as if a playwright were to run out on stage, interrupting his characters, to remind us that he has written all this.” (x).
If you write anything that yanks your reader out of the image that you’re painting, you need to reconsider what you’ve written.
I was impatiently eyeing the indigo instrument of cooking. Waiting for toast. I had to get to my vexing vocation in just seven minutes. But I needed to eat something. So there I was, staring into the unforgiving metallic contraption of bread heating, waiting for my measly meal to appear. I hoped I wouldn’t be late.
There’s a load of whacky stuff going on there. Now, if we ditch the fragments and the alliteration, it might read something more like this:
I was starving. Even though I had to be at my desk in seven minutes, I was standing in the kitchen, glaring at my toaster. I was waiting for the instant I would be able to grab my breakfast and go. I felt like an idiot rooting for a piece of bread, but I really didn’t want to get fired for being late.
Things seem to be moving much more smoothly now. You’ll notice, however, that even though “unforgiving metallic contraption of bread heating” was part of a complete thought and was not alliterative, it was thankfully absent from the second example. Why did I get rid of it? It was clogging the sentence. The passage makes much more sense when I simply refer to the object in question as a toaster.
Nobody is declaring death to fragments and alliteration. You just don’t want your reader to have to look things over twice because they’re confused or put off. Use fragments and alliterations where they make sense, just like how you only use individual words where they make sense.
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