Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lesson 58: Errors of Sentence Structure: Sentence Fragments


Two of the most common errors of sentence structure are the Sentence Fragments and the Comma Splices and Fused Sentences.

Comma splices and fused sentences will be discussed in the next lesson.



A Sentence fragment is an incomplete sentence or a dependent clause punctuated as a sentence, beginning with a capital letter and ending with a period.

For a group of words to be a complete sentence, it must have an independent clause with a subject and a predicate.


Steps to test sentence completeness:

  1. Find the conjugated verb.
  2. Find the subject.
  3. Look to see if the subject and the verb are introduced by a DANGER WORD (discussed below.) If this is so, the sentence is not complete.


Here are fragments and their possible corrections.

1.) Fragment caused by a missing conjugated verb.

  • Fragment: Elizabeth studying data processing
  • Correct: Elizabeth is studying data processing.
  • Fragment: Justin has many varied interests. Such as painting, swimming, and playing tennis. ( The first statement is a complete sentence; however, the second is a fragment because it has no complete thought.)
  • Correct: Justin has many varied interests such as painting, swimming, and playing tennis.

2.) Fragment caused by a missing subject.

  • Fragment: Helplessly fell across the wet stage.
  • Correct: The actress helplessly fell across the wet stage.
  • Fragment: I have tried hard to talk to my mother. And understand her.
  • Correct: I have tried to talk to my mother. I have tried to understand her.

[You should always remember that the subject must be included in each sentence. However, commands may be excluded. (The pronoun you is still the understood subject when the person spoken to is addressed by name.) ]

  • Correct: Go home before the storm comes.
  • Correct: Run for your life!

3.) Fragments caused by a danger word.

  • Fragment: Because he was persistent.
  • Fragment: Before he jumped from the burning building.

Do not avoid danger words completely. When used correctly, they are excellent tools for writing complex sentences.

  • Correct: Because he was persistent, he was given a very satisfactory answer.
  • Correct: He grabbed the jewelry box before he jumped from the burning building.



The paragraph below contains one or more fragments. Rewrite them into complete sentences.

  • Mike was a man of seeming contradictions. At home he listened to Beethoven and jazz. But at the tavern, he chained-smoke and drank into the night. He enjoyed being a tough guy, but he was a puppy to people he liked. Loved golf and fishing. Was a fanatic softball player.


~end of lesson~

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