Non-Sentences in Business Writing

by Craig Shrives

How To Use Non-Sentences

Using non-sentences is a creative-writing technique that can make your business correspondence more interesting to read.

Non-sentences can make your writing flow more naturally.

What Is a Non-Sentence?

A non-sentence (or a sentence fragment as grammarians call it) is a group of words that looks like a sentence but isn't. A sentence fragment starts with a capital letter and has end punctuation, e.g., a period (full stop), but it does not express a complete thought. Here are some examples of non-sentences:
  • Really?
  • Worse.
  • Yes.
  • No.
  • Possibly.
  • Oh, great.
  • Half dead.
  • No longer true!
  • Own goal.
  • Bad business.
Remember that a sentence is a group of words that expresses a complete thought. A sentence contains a subject and a verb.

The Benefit of Using Non-Sentences

Used occasionally, non-sentences can:
  • Make an impact.
  • Make you look confident.
Impact and confidence are big benefits. Non-sentences can also make your writing flow more naturally.

Don't Overuse Non-Sentences

How many non-sentences should you use in formal business correspondence? Well, that depends. Your readers will expect the level of respect that your relationship with them dictates.

Non-sentences are great for making your writing flow naturally, so they are great for texts of fiction or verse. They are not so helpful in business writing though because they can make you look disrespectful. That's the danger of using them.

If, for example, you included a non-sentence (e.g., "Disaster.") in the middle of a paragraph, you would probably achieve some impact and look confident to your readers. However, if you then put another non-sentence (e.g., "Really?") in the next paragraph or on the next page, you would run the risk of your readers thinking you're over-familiar, and the impact and confidence won with your first non-sentence would be lost.

Format, Word Choice, and Grammar

The effectiveness of your document will also be determined by the following:

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