Take the 2-minute tour ×
Writers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for authors, editors, reviewers, professional writers, and aspiring writers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I realized I have the habit of adding small sentences that don't provide much information:

Eri searched her memory, but came out blank. She couldn’t even remember what she was doing at that time. Which was odd. She didn’t consider herself particularly smart, but when it came to remembering things, her brain never failed.


But what struck me the most were her eyes. Even though there was nothing unusual in them, they made her face look expressionless, lifeless. It felt strange. Like staring at an empty canvas.

(I don't do this all the time. Maybe two or three times per story.)

But no matter how I think about it, I feel the paragraphs will lose their flow/rhythm if I remove those short sentences.

Is this a bad writing practice? If so, how should I modify the examples above in order to fix the issue?

share|improve this question
1  
Feels fine to me. What you do is: small sentence, comment. In the second example, "Like staring ..." wouldn't make much sense without "It felt strange", because it is an explanation about what felt strange. You could do something like "Looking at her eyes I felt like staring at an empty canvas", instead of the impersonal "it". But generally these short sentences give a nice rhythm. –  what Nov 12 '13 at 8:07

2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

They fulfill a good role for rhythm and flow, but they are disruptive as distinct sentences. Yes, short fragmented sentences when you're not in the middle of a breathless action are a bad practice - not terribly bad, but less than optimal.

This is easily remedied though.

Eri searched her memory, but came out blank. She couldn’t even remember what she was doing at that time. Which was odd; she didn’t consider herself particularly smart, but when it came to remembering things, her brain never failed.

But what struck me the most were her eyes. Even though there was nothing unusual in them, they made her face look expressionless, lifeless. It felt strange; like staring at an empty canvas.

Commas, semicolons, colons, dashes, ellipses are your friends in cases like these.

Especially learn to love the semicolon. It's powerful; doesn't disrupt the flow like full stop does; can be applied nearly everywhere where full stop or colon are less than perfect choice, and once you learn to use it, you'll find it to be the missing link between the colon and full stop that finally makes your sentences flow naturally.

I found this infographics immensely helpful.

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks! I'm also a The Oatmeal fan. –  Alexandro Chen Nov 12 '13 at 9:10
2  
The semicolons are odd and awkward here. –  what Nov 12 '13 at 10:54
2  
I agree with @what. Neither of those should be semi-colons as they stand. The first one should be Which was odd, as she and the second should just be a comma. –  Lauren Ipsum Nov 12 '13 at 10:58
    
+1 for the link. –  Amin Mohamed Ajani Dec 12 '13 at 20:06

Short, incomplete, or fragment sentences work really nicely for emphasis on their own, which, incidentally, is also one of the only times you should use which at the start of a sentence.

Just be careful not to be ambiguous. If a descriptive sentence is short, it's inherently concisely descriptive, so it should be obvious from the context what you're emphasising. Your first example works well, and it's obvious that it is the lack of memory which is odd. Your second example seems to stilt the flow a little, as you only realise when reading the subsequent sentence that it's the act of looking at her face which is strange.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.