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Avoiding Faulty Sentences: Writing Skills Success Study Guide

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Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Practice exercises for this concept can be found at Avoiding Faulty Sentences: Writing Skills Success Practice Exercises.

A sentence is made up of words; a statement is made in words. . . . Statements are made, words or sentences are used.

―John Langshaw Austin, British philosopher (1911–1960)

Lesson Summary

How do we distinguish between complete sentences and sentence fragments, run-ons, and comma splices? Read this study guide to find out.

Begin your study of complete sentences by looking at the Problem paragraph that appears below. Underline the groups of words that form complete sentences. See if you can distinguish them from the fragments, run-ons, and comma splices included in the paragraph. Then check your work against the Solution paragraph, where the complete sentences are underlined.

Problem

Just the other day, I came home from work as excited as I had ever been. The night before, someone from Publisher's Clearinghouse had called. To tell me that I would be receiving a prize package worth potentially millions of dollars. I was so excited because, unlike other offers, this really sounded legitimate, it sounded to me as though I might really win something this time. I hastily opened the mailbox. Hoping to find the promised envelope. There it was. Between the Life magazine and the Fingerhut catalog. The promised letter. When I finally finished reading the entire mailing. I realized my chances were really no better with this contest than they had been for any other contest I had entered in the past and I was disappointed that I had spent so much time reading all of the material then I threw it all in the recycling basket and went to bed. Dejected.

Complete Sentences

A complete sentence is a group of words that meets all three of the following criteria:

  1. It has a verb (a word or phrase that explains an action, such as want, run, take, give, or a state of being, such as am, is, are, was, were, be). Many sentences have more than one verb. The verbs in the following sentences are highlighted for you.
  2. Examples:

      Bob and Alexandra both want a promotion. (action verb)
      Yurika drafted a memo and sent it to the sales department. (action verbs)
      Herbert and Tan are the chief operators in this department. (state of being verb)

Solution

Just the other day, I came home from work as excited as I had ever been. The night before, someone from Publisher's Clearinghouse had called. To tell me that I would be receiving a prize package worth potentially millions of dollars. I was so excited because, unlike other offers, this really sounded legitimate, it sounded to me as though I might really win something this time. I hastily opened the mailbox. Hoping to find the promised envelope. There it was. Between the Life magazine and the Fingerhut catalog. The promised letter. When I finally finished reading the entire mailing. I realized my chances were really no better with this contest than they had been for any other contest I had entered in the past and I was disappointed that I had spent so much time reading all of the material then I threw it all in the recycling basket and went to bed. Dejected.

  1. It has a subject (someone or something that performs the action or serves as the main focus of the sentence). As with verbs, many sentences have more than one subject.
  2. Examples:

      Bob and Alexandra both want a promotion.
      Yurika drafted a memo and sent it to the sales department.
      Herbert and Tan are the chief operators in this department.
  1. It expresses a complete thought. In other words, the group of words has a completed meaning. Sometimes, a group of words has both a subject and a verb but still does not express a complete thought. Look at the following examples. The subjects and verbs are highlighted to make them easier to identify.
  2. Complete sentences (also called independent clauses):

      I left an hour earlier than usual.
      Our team finished its year - end evaluation.
      Roger tried to explain his position.

    Sentence fragments (also called dependent clauses):

      If I left an hour earlier than usual.
      When our team finished its year - end evaluation.
      Whenever Roger tried to explain his position.
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