Avoiding Faulty Sentences: Writing Skills Success Study Guide (page 2)

Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Sentence Fragments

In the last set of examples, you may have noticed that each fragment is longer than the similar complete sentence. The groups of words are otherwise the same, except the fragments have an extra word at the beginning. These words are called subordinating conjunctions. If a group of words that would normally be a complete sentence is preceded by a subordinating conjunction, you need something more to complete the thought. These subordinate or dependent clauses need something more to complete their meaning; therefore, they depend on an independent clause, a group of words that by itself could form a complete sentence. Examine how the fragments have been rewritten here to express a complete thought.

      If I left an hour earlier than usual, I would be able to avoid rush hour.
      When our team finished its year-end evaluation, we all took the next day off.
      Whenever Roger tried to explain his position, he misquoted the facts.

These words can be used as subordinating conjunctions:


Sometimes, a subordinating conjunction is a phrase rather than a single word:

    as if we didn't already know
    as though she had always lived in the town
    as long as they can still be heard
    as soon as I can finish my work
    even though you aren't quite ready
    in order to proceed more carefully
    so that all of us understand exactly

Subordinate clauses are only one type of sentence fragment. Look at the questions in the table that follows. For each question, choose the group of words that forms a complete sentence and put the corresponding letter in the box to the right. See if you notice any similarities among the groups of words that are fragments.

Avoiding Faulty Sentences

The complete sentences are 1. A, 2. B, 3. B, and 4. A. The fragments are simply phrases. They do not contain a subject or a verb. If you combine the two sets of words, both will be part of a complete sentence. See how this is done in the following examples. With some of the sentences, all you need is a comma. With others, you must add extra words to incorporate the phrase into the rest of the sentence.

  1. We are ready for the next task, which is washing the car.
  2. Seeing the plane arrive, Heather's family rushed to the gate.
  3. Since the phone was broken after years of use, the receptionist finally got a new one.
  4. We saw Andrea sitting all by herself, imagining what Florida was like in March.

Now look at this table. In each set, one of the options is a complete sentence. The other is a fragment. Put the letter of the complete sentence in the box at the far right. See if you notice any similarities among the fragments.

Avoiding Faulty Sentences

The complete sentences are 1. B, 2. A, 3. A, 4. B, 5. B, 6. B, 7. B, 8. B, 9. A, and 10. A.

Most of the fragments are phrases that can easily be incorporated into a complete sentence using the independent clause with which they are paired. Try to do this yourself. Compare your sentences with the versions that follow.

Look at sentences 1, 5, 7, and 9. The fragments in these sentences were nothing more than phrases separated from the independent clauses. All you need to do is add the fragment to the complete sentence in a spot where it fits. No punctuation or additional words are needed.

  1. I've noticed something very strange about the way he combs his hair.
  1. Everything went smoothly during the rest of the afternoon.
  1. I was fortunate to find a spot in the parking ramp near our building.
  1. We traveled through the desert all night without seeing a single car or building.

Now examine sentences 2 and 3. These fragments are phrases that explain or further identify something in the complete sentence. Such phrases are called appositive phrases. All you need to do is place a comma after the word being explained or identified, and then add the appositive phrase.

  1. My aunt is a respiratory therapist, a person who helps people rebuild their lungs and respiratory system.
  1. Benjamin saw key lime pie, his favorite type of dessert.

Take a look at sentences 4, 8, and 10. In these sentences, the fragment is a verb (action) separated from the independent clause or the complete sentence. All that is required is to add the fragment to the sentence.

  1. We went door to door and tried to sell popcorn and candy.
  1. We read the morning paper and saw the picture of our company's new owner.
  1. We walked all over downtown and applied for part - time jobs at theaters.

Finally, look at the remaining sentence, 6. In this sentence, extra words are needed to add the fragment to the sentence.

  1. We couldn't make the deadline because of the icy roads and hazardous weather.

Run - On Sentences

An independent clause is a group of words that could be a complete sentence all by itself. A run - on sentence is one in which independent clauses have been run together without punctuation (a period, semicolon, or comma).


    Lynn moved from Minneapolis her job was transferred.
    The concert seemed unending it lasted almost until midnight.
    We got some gas then we headed off to Omaha.

All three examples can be corrected quite easily in one of three ways:

  1. By adding a period and a capital letter.
      Lynn moved from Minneapolis. Her job was transferred.
      The concert seemed unending. It lasted almost until midnight.
      We got some gas. Then we headed off to Omaha.
  1. By adding a comma and a conjunction (and, but, or, for, nor, yet, so). Sometimes, you have to change the order of the words.
      Lynn's job was transferred, so she moved from Minneapolis.
      The concert seemed unending, for it lasted almost until midnight.
      We got some gas, and then we headed off to Omaha.
  1. By turning one of the independent clauses into a dependent clause. To do this, you need to add a subordinating conjunction where it fits in the sentence. This can usually be done in two different ways: by rewording the clauses or by using different subordinating conjunctions. Remember the list of subordinating conjunction you saw earlier in this lesson?
  2. Run - On Sentences
      Lynn moved from Minneapolis because her job was transferred.
      When her job was transferred, Lynn moved from Minneapolis.
      Since the concert lasted almost until midnight, it seemed unending.
      The concert seemed unending because it lasted until almost midnight.
      After we got some gas, we headed off to Omaha. We headed off to Omaha after we got some gas.
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