Sentence Fragments: Practice

Sentence fragments in a paper indicate a lack of knowledge of basic sentence structure that is essential to any composition. If not corrected, sentence fragments will have negative effects on any piece of writing. By determining the causes of sentence fragments and by teaching students to produce correct sentence forms, students can learn to fix their own sentence fragments.

Definition of a sentence fragment: A group of words lacking a subject or a verb. In most cases, a sentence fragment is a phrase, an independent clause, or a noun and phrase without a main verb.

Definition of a sentence: A group of words that contains a subject and verb that can stand by itself and make sense.

Examples of Sentence Fragments

  • Lynchburg College, a small, liberal arts college. (phrase)
  • Although she would be back soon. (dependent clause)
  • The woman with blond hair walking through the restaurant. (noun and phrase)

Possible Sources of Sentence Fragments

Using a period to indicate a pause in thinking, but not necessarily the end of a sentence. The most likely cause of this is lack of an outline or organization. While freewriting, without an outline in mind, it is easy to get off track. Because ideas are not properly organized it is easy for a student to jumble ideas. In the middle of one thought, a freewriter may jump to another, causing a fragment.
Solution: Write an outline before freewriting.

Imitation of speech patterns in writing. Writing as we speak is probably the greatest source of sentence fragments. Humans have a tendency to use fragments when conversing casually. A writer must understand that written prose cannot imitate speech patterns. While we might think in incomplete sentences, they cannot appear in a composition.
Solution
: Learn to turn incomplete thoughts into complete sentences.

Recognizing and Fixing Sentence Fragments

Because a writer knows what he or she is trying to say in his or her paper, it is easy for him or her to look over sentence fragments when checking for errors. To remedy this, it is imperative that a writer either reads the paper out loud or preferably has someone else read the paper out loud. By reading a paper out loud, sentence fragments (and other mistakes) will stand out because they will sound wrong.

If fragments are found, determine what is wrong and either take out what shouldn't be there or add what is missing.

Correction of above fragments:

  • Lynchburg College, a small liberal arts college.
    Correction: Lynchburg College is a small liberal arts college. (Verb "is" has been added).
  • Although she would be back soon.
    Correction:
    She would be back soon. (Omit subordinating word "Although").
  • A woman with blond hair walking through the restaurant.
    Correction:
    A woman with blond hair walked through the restaurant. (Modifier "walking" has been changed to verb "walked").

For further review, see Sentence Fragments.

Created by Kerrie Swarts.