I'm in the progress of writing an essay at current. I have articulated the following sentence onto the document and the omniscient Microsoft Word has deemed it as "Fragment (consider revising)".

Here's the sentence:

Identified as the central problem is an inflated perception of knowledge.

Could anyone explain the problem, if any, with it so that I can appositely amend it.

  • 6
    Certainly. Microsoft Word is not even scient, let alone omniscient. First, turn off the grammar checker permanently. Second, the sentence is grammatical, but very difficult to understand, because (a) relevant context is missing; and (b) unnecessary syntactic acrobatics have been performed; viz, this is a transform of An inflated perception of knowledge is identified as the central problem, which is also grammatical, but slightly less difficult to understand without context.
    – jlawler
    Apr 16, 2014 at 17:34
  • 2
    This question seems to be language-specific. I think, you will find some good answers at English.SE Apr 18, 2014 at 16:50
  • See also When to Trust Your Grammar Checker, where the answer given is Almost never. Sep 20, 2014 at 17:24

2 Answers 2


As jlawler mentioned, the main "problem" is simply that Word doesn't recognize exactly the same things as (un)grammatical as actual people do. This isn't really the fault of the programmers - we're still learning things about English even today - but the result is that there are discrepancies between the program's verdict and a native speaker's.

"Fragments" are also a particularly common area for these discrepancies; this is due to (possibly-outdated) conventions in formal writing, rather than conversational writing.

  • Be sure that the shibboleths and zombies of what is laughingly called "formal writing" are all programmed into Word's checker. Very few of what it calls "fragments" are actually fragments, and its parser leaves a great deal to be desired. It's better turned off.
    – jlawler
    Sep 20, 2014 at 14:42

What's a fragment? Some languages allow the speaker to omit pronouns clearly implied by context, a feature called "null subject" or "pro-drop". WALS lists this as feature 101: Expression of pronominal subjects. Spanish and Italian allow a null subject, but French and English do not. This means that all complete sentences in English must have an explicit subject; otherwise, you end up with not a sentence but a fragment. Fragments occur often in spoken English due to conversational deletion, but formal writing avoids conversational deletion outside dialogue.

Is this a fragment? No. This sentence has a subject: "an inflated perception of knowledge". Microsoft Word just can't find it because the writer inverted the constituent order from English's more common order, which puts the subject before the predicate. The sentence starts with "identified", the passive participle form of "identify". This form is identical to the past tense form "identified", and Word sees an initial finite verb and assumes that what follows it isn't a subject. So it guesses that the writer may have accidentally performed conversational deletion in an inappropriate context.

Undoing the the inversion would make the sentence easier for Word to parse, and probably for human readers as well, as jlawler pointed out in a comment:

An inflated perception of knowledge is identified as the central problem.

Is the inversion the only thing tripping up Word? This sentence would likely have a green squiggly for another reason: the passive voice. In addition to a subject and object, a verb also has an agent (someone performing an action) and patient (the thing on which the action is performed). English is an "accusative" language, meaning that the sentence's subject is usually the agent. It does allow promoting the patient to a clause's subject using be followed by a participle, and writers often do this when the agent is unknown or unimportant. However, overuse of passive voice tends to sound unclear or evasive, as in "mistakes were made". For this reason, many style guides recommend avoiding excessive use of the passive voice. Thus Word will probably draw a squiggly for that too. In fact, one style guide called "E-Prime", promoted by the General Semantics movement, eschews all use of be as a blunt instrument to avoid passing off judgments as facts.

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