- Recognize sentence fragments
- Revise sentence fragments
Fragments are simply grammatically incomplete sentences. These are grammatical structures that cannot stand on their own. So how can we tell the difference between a sentence and a sentence fragment? And how can we fix fragments?
A sentence fragment is simply a sentence that is missing something.
- Missing a subject: Slammed the door and left.
What is missing from this sentence? Who slammed the door?
- Corrected: Suleika slammed the door and left.
Let’s take a look at another example where we are missing an action or a state being.
- Missing a verb: The answer to our prayers.
The answer to our prayers is what?
- Corrected: The answer to our prayers is right in front of us.
Sometimes a sentence fragment is an incomplete thought or information.
- Incomplete: Since she never saw the movie.
- Corrected: Since she never saw the movie, I told her about it.
- Corrected: I told her about the movie since she never saw it.
It can be tricky to figure out what exactly is wrong with a sentence fragment. Below we have an exercise where you can practice identifying the problem. What really matters is that you can fix your fragments or eliminate them altogether.
Be careful: Length is not an indication of a sentence fragment. For example, the following short sentence is not a sentence fragment:
- She ran.
She is the subject. And what did she do? She ran. It’s a complete sentence!
The following, much longer sentence is a sentence fragment.
- Which is why we believe the proposed amendments should be passed.
The following, much longer sentence is a sentence fragment. What is which in this sentence? Why should the amendments be passed?
As you’re identifying fragments, keep in mind that command sentences are not fragments, despite not having a subject. Commands are the only grammatically correct sentences that lack a subject because the subject is implied:
- Drop and give me fifty!
(You) drop and give me fifty.
- Count how many times the word “fragrant” is used during commercial breaks.
(You) count how many times the word “fragrant” is used during commercial breaks.
Common Causes of Fragments
One of the reasons we write in fragments is because we often speak that way. However, there is a difference between formal writing and speech, and it is important to write in full sentences for academic writing.
Watch the following video for more examples and practice identifying sentence fragments.
You can view the transcript for “Recognizing fragments” here (opens in new window).
Fixing Sentence Fragments
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:
- Ivana appeared at the committee meeting last week. And made a convincing presentation of her ideas about the new product.
- “And made a convincing presentation of her ideas about the new product” in this example is not a complete sentence. There is no subject in this phrase, so the easiest fix is to simply delete the period and combine the two statements:
Ivana appeared at the committee meeting last week and made a convincing presentation of her ideas about the new product.
- The committee considered her ideas for a new marketing strategy quite powerful. The best ideas that they had heard in years.
The part after the period, “the best ideas they had heard in years,” is not a complete sentence —there is no verb. By adding “they were” to the beginning of this phrase, we have turned the fragment into an independent clause, which can now stand on its own:
- The committee considered her ideas for a new marketing strategy quite powerful; they were the best ideas that they had heard in years.
- She spent a full month evaluating his computer-based instructional materials. Which she eventually sent to her supervisor with the strongest of recommendations.
Let’s look at the clause “Which she eventually sent to her supervisor with the strongest of recommendations.” This is not a complete sentence and is a dependent clause; the word “which” signals this fact. If we change “which she eventually” to “Eventually, she,” we also turn the dependent clause into an independent clause.
- She spent a full month evaluating his computer-based instructional materials. Eventually, she sent the evaluation to her supervisor with the strongest of recommendations.
Check your understanding of sentence fragments in the following interactive.