I've been finding more and more of these types of constructions in published fiction, and it really bugs me. There's nothing gramatically wrong with it, but it's just poor form, in my opinion. ESPECIALLY in a first-person narrative. People just don't talk or think that way. At least I don't.
Am I crazy? Do these types of constructions get on anybody else's nerves?
Would Hemingway begin a sentence with a dependent clause?
It bugs me plenty. It's just a cheap way of starting off a sentence with a different letter. I'm guessing that's why you notice it more in first-person. Supposed to save you going crazy from the 'I's.
I especially can't stand them when they're logically impossible. This usually happens when the writer wants to describe two separate, chronological actions. Such as, "Pulling on my jeans, I opened the door."
Really? How many hands does this person have?
Ah, nothing like a good little rant. Thanks, Jude.
That's purely sloppiness on the part of the author. I imagine, though, the fact that for a number of years they didn't really teach grammar in schools might explain the sloppiness, because a bunch of kids never learned how to construct sentences correctly.
Funny. I just got through reading a novel with a whole bunch of these clauses. And sentence fragments like this one. It did kind of get on my nerves after a while. Even got kind of confusing when the dependent clauses got so long it took forever to get to the subject of the sentence.
Totally agree. Why waste time on bad books, when there are so many good ones?
Didn't mean to suggest sentence fragments are bad. Actually, I like them. When used right, they can make the narrative flow well.
For that matter, so can a dependent clause at the start of a sentence. It's the really, really long, convoluted introductory clauses that got to me in the book I just read. They didn't occur often enough to ruin the book, and the story was gripping, so I just kind of went with it.
Maybe this is just a long-winded way of saying it's okay to "break the rules," as long as it works.
As I read Jude's post (wink), I could not help but reflect on my own pet peeve: exclamation points! (wink wink) Everyone has their nit-picks. For some it's contractions. Others, I fathom, despise interjections. (wink to the nth degree) I actually don't mind dependent clauses. Repetitive declarations get tedious. They can make the author sound robotic. English has the ability to say one thing five ways. Variety, as it is said, is the spice of life.
I certainly agree. Mind you, I support sentence fragments in fiction -- if they have a purpose. But repetitive sentence structure marks a piece of prose as semi-literate if it is continuous. This becomes more grating when the sentences are all short and start with the subject.
Starting sentences with dependent clauses (or anything other than the subject) is a way to break up repetitive structure and give prose some rhythm.
I'll throw in with I.J. on this point: Starting sentences with dependent clauses (or anything other than the subject) is a way to break up repetitive structure and give prose some rhythm.
I'm sure I use sentences opening with dependent clauses to vary sentence structure now and then, and sometimes when I want the opposite of immediacy (to address one of Dana's points), maybe so as to give the reader a breather for a short bit after an intense scene. But a little of this kind of thing goes a long way, and that's especially true of infinite verb phrases IMO.
FYI, I leafed through one of my Burke novels (Cimarron Rose) and found he uses dependent clause-opening sentences sparingly, but in clumps, often when relating backstory. I think he's using sentence structure to help control the reader's pulse, so to speak.
I'll happily concede that point, when it's used for effect. (Using JLB as an example is gauranteed to get me to roll over, damn you.) There are time when the author might want to lessen immedicay, as Eric noted. My prime objection here is when sentences are begun with dependent clauses as a matter of course. That can make a book seem to read slower than it really does.
There's a lot of stuff that drives me crazy in published fiction--bad sentence writing of any kind is at the top of my list. Dorothy Parker's dictum springs to mind. Don't get me started on crappy dialogue. Oy.