Sentence fragments can be confusing. When used in secret shopper reports.
Oops. That second sentence is actually a sentence fragment. A full sentence typically includes both a subject and a verb and expresses a complete thought. Imagine each of the first two sentences standing on their own:
Sentence fragments can be confusing.
When used in secret shopper reports.
Could each sentence stand on its own? The first could, but not the second. That makes the second sentence actually a fragment. Fortunately, the fix for sentence fragments is usually easy. Here are some tips on recognizing sentence fragments and eliminating them from your mystery shopper reports.
As noted above, a sentence fragment does not stand on its own. Here are some examples of sentence fragments.
Jane asked if I wanted coffee. After I had refused dessert.
Dave spent 12 minutes with me. Explaining the features of the phone.
I could not enter the fitting room. Until Cindy unlocked the door.
The food was presented attractively. Especially the salad.
The second sentence in each pair is actually a fragment, and not a complete sentence. An easy way to recognize sentence fragments in your writing is to read each sentence out loud, then pause. Does what you just read make sense? If so, it is likely to be a full sentence, not a fragment.
Even better, read each sentence out loud by starting with the last sentence and working backwards to the first. If you were to read a report containing the sentences and fragments above, you might skim right past the fragments. They sort of make sense when read after the sentences that precede them. However, when read in reverse order the fragment really stands out.
Fixing sentence fragments is easy. They are usually a continuation of the thought in the previous sentence, so just combine the sentence and the fragment into one sentence. You may need to replace the period with a comma, or simply omit the period. The examples above would become:
Jane asked if I wanted coffee, after I had refused dessert.
Dave spent 12 minutes explaining the features of the phone.
I could not enter the fitting room until Cindy unlocked the door.
The food was presented attractively, especially the salad.
These simple changes will improve your writing and make your reports better.
Is there ever a time when sentence fragments may be used? Yes. “Yes” is an example of a sentence fragment that makes a quick point. It is clear what the “yes” means and it is not necessary to write, “Yes, there are times when sentence fragments may be used.”
Most exceptions to the rule against using sentence fragments will probably not apply to mystery shopper reports. In addition to making a quick point, they include bulleted lists, titles and captions.
Sentence fragments are sometimes used in creative writing to establish a mood, or as part of a personal style. However, they should seldom be used in business writing (including mystery shopping reports). One exception that does apply to mystery shop reports is when you are quoting someone. If you are quoting what an employee said to you, quote them exactly. Do not change the employee’s words to fix grammar errors or create complete sentences.
Read your reports carefully, preferably out loud, to catch and correct sentence fragments.
This is one of a series of posts on grammar to help secret shoppers write better reports.