Incomplete Sentences

Overzealous editing can result in boring content. Rendering a grammatically perfect article or essay means that incomplete sentences are edited out, and emphatic expressions get toned down. So the goal for an editor is to balance grammatical accuracy and readability with the writer’s voice and purpose in the article. This is where the art of being an editor intersects with the science of correct grammar and an editor needs to exercise good judgment.

When I approach editing an article where the author uses incomplete sentences as part of her style and voice, I ask the following questions:

  • Does the whole piece make sense to an independent reader?
  • Does the author’s signature phrasing and style create ambiguity for the reader?
  • Are the first paragraph and the last paragraph tight and clear?
  • Are the stylistic elements appropriate for the readers?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer for each of these questions, but rather each is an opportunity for editorial judgment. The balance I seek as an editor is a clear piece that represents the author’s voice and communicates to the reader. Obviously, editorial judgment will vary for an academic audience versus a consumer audience.  A conversational style of writing includes incomplete sentences, because we don’t speak in complete sentences all the time or we would sound like stilted actors. Academic writing will result in different editorial judgments because the goal is precision and authority, not conversation.

The goal in editing is to clearly communicate with an audience. Accuracy is important, but voice is what breathes life into content, so both are considerations in editing. The art of editing is finding the right balance, and as the Fine Print Editorial tagline says, the difference between good and great is in the details.

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