Communication, Email Writing, Grammar, Writing

Is it Ever Okay to Use an Incomplete Sentence? Sure. In Certain Contexts.

In three of our recent articles, we looked at different kinds of incomplete sentences and ways to correct them.

(Click the links to read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.)

However, it isn’t always necessary to write full, complete sentences. Below, you will find a list of contexts and situations where incomplete sentences are perfectly acceptable.

1. Titles of books, articles, songs, albums, movies, TV programs, etc.

Whether you are writing a scholarly article or a pop song, your title does not have to form a full, complete sentence. The title of the article you are reading right now includes two incomplete sentences!

2. Subject Headers

Subject headers for emails, articles, papers, and business reports are similar to titles. Therefore, a complete sentence is not necessary.

3. Items on Lists

Imagine how long it would take to write a grocery list if you had to write a full, complete sentence for each item! Then imagine taking that list to the store and trying to read through it while pushing a shopping cart up and down the aisles.

4. Bullet Points

Bullet points are commonly found on resumes and CVs. They are also widely used in PowerPoint presentations. They present information in a format that can be read quickly and easily.

5. Creative Writing

While you are reading novels or short stories, you may find some real-world examples of authors who occasionally use incomplete sentences. If you are creating your own literary masterpiece, feel free to play around with the language and break some of the rules.

6. Captions for Photos, Graphs, or Charts

The old house on Cass Avenue, sometime around 1979.

Sammy and Lucie at the beach, 2004.

Rate of Covid infections in New York City, 2020-2021.

Projected sales for 2023.

The first two are examples of photo captions, while the other two captions would be used for a graph or chart. All of them are sentence fragments rather than full, complete sentences.

7. Casual Communications

Will do!

Got it.

Maybe next time.

Talk to you soon.

Sentence fragments like the examples above are absolutely fine when you are posting on social media or dashing off very casual emails or text messages to friends and colleagues.

8. Spoken English

Ordinary, everyday conversations are rife with incomplete sentences. Let’s look at a dialogue between two colleagues:

Lisa: That meeting!

Rashida: So much drama!

Lisa: All because of Winston the genius and his big ideas.

Rashida: His big, expensive ideas that would never work in the real world.

Although most actual conversations don’t consist entirely of incomplete sentences, the above dialogue shows that it is possible.

9. Advertisements

Buy one, get one free!

Now available at XYZ Market.

Sale– 50% off everything in the store!

If you are browsing through online or print advertisements, it won’t be long before you find incomplete sentences like these.

What if you still aren’t sure if it’s okay to use an incomplete sentence?

If you have written a text which includes an incomplete sentence or two, the editors at TextRanch will be happy to look at it. Be sure to include a note about the context. That will make it easier for us to know if the incomplete sentence needs to be corrected, or if it’s fine the way you have written it.

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