Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007 and 2010. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Allowing Sentence Fragments.

Allowing Sentence Fragments

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 22, 2017)

Maggie notes that in fiction writing it is acceptable to have sentence fragments within dialogue, as that is how we often speak. This makes her wonder if there is a way to set Word's automatic grammar checker to not flag sentence fragments that occur between quotation marks.

You can, if you'd like, configure the grammar checker so that it does not flag sentence fragments. Follow these steps:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. Click the Proofing option at the left side of the dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Proofing options of the Word Options dialog box.

  4. Click the Settings button. Word displays the Grammar Settings dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  5. Figure 2. The Grammar Settings dialog box.

  6. Clear the Fragments and Run-ons check box.
  7. Make any other settings adjustments you'd like.
  8. Click on OK to close the Grammar Settings dialog box.
  9. Click on OK to close the Word Options dialog box.

There are a couple of drawbacks to doing this, though. First of all, Word will ignore all sentence fragments, regardless of where they occur—between quotation marks or not. Secondly, Word also will ignore any run-on sentences it may detect.

If these drawbacks are unacceptable for your purposes, you may want to try a different approach. If it suits your writing (if you don't have that many fragments), you might consider prefacing them with ellipses. Word magically ignores a fragment that has ellipses in from of it.

Another option is to define a new character style that you use just for your in-dialogue fragments. Define the style so that it doesn't do grammar checking, and then apply it to the fragments. This has the added benefit of allowing Word to flag any out-of-dialogue fragments that may exist in your prose.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (6209) applies to Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Allowing Sentence Fragments.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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