Sentence Fragments and Run-Ons Help (page 2)
Fragments sometimes result when writers start sentences with words such as when, after, because, since, before, and as soon as. For example, does the following group of words have a subject and a verb? Is it a complete sentence?
When the new product arrives.
The example has a subjectlike word, product, and a verblike word, arrives, and it is still not a complete sentence. If you say it out loud, you will hear that it is unfinished:
When the new product arrives…
Then what will happen? Possible completions include the following:
- When the new product arrives, we'll call our advertisers.
- When the new product arrives, we'll send a special introductory offer to our best customers.
- When the new product arrives, we'll have to stay late to pack it for shipping.
Groups of words may seem to be sentences because they contain subject and verbtype words, but beware of incomplete thoughts! In the initial example (When the new product arrives.), product seems to be the subject and arrives seems to be the verb, yet the example is still an incomplete thought.
As you read the following examples, decide if each has the subject and verb it needs:
- Looking at the job market from a new perspective. (Hint: Beware of sentences that start with -ing ending words.)
- My friend who teaches a wellness course.
- Heading for the West Coast for a five-day vacation.
- Your doctor's appointment scheduled for Tuesday.
- When the man waiting to see you.
Let's take a look at what's missing. In the first example, who is looking at the job market? The subject is missing. The second example is tricky. My friend is the subject. The words who teaches a wellness course describe the friend. Still there is no verb. What does your friend do? Try this: My friend who teaches a wellness course drives 100 miles a day to get to her class. The verb is drives. In the third example, who was heading for the West Coast? The subject is missing. In the fourth example, the verb is missing. The fifth example needs an action to complete it.
Sentence Fragments Practice and Answers
Finish the following statements to make them complete sentences. There are several possible ways to complete the sentences; just be sure that each sentence has a subject and verb.
- Before I leave for California __________.
- As soon as the rain stops __________.
- Because I'm trying to get a promotion __________.
- When I exercise several times a week __________.
- After I took a nutrition course __________.
- As soon as the rain stops and we have all the information we need about the weather __________.
- Before I started this job and when I was looking for one __________.
- Since you started working here and agreed to take the early shift __________.
- After they serve lunch and we've stayed a while __________.
- Tom, whom everyone admires since he was precinct captain __________.
Sample answers are provided.
1. …California, I need to make a hotel reservation. 2. …rain stops, I'll plant annuals and herbs. 3. …a promotion, I'm building a personal work file. 4. …a week, I feel better. 5. …course, I cleaned out many of my food supplies. 6. …the weather, we'll know what to wear. 7. …looking for one, I had many interviews. 8. …early shift, we can start our day earlier. 9. …stayed awhile, we'll leave. 10. …he was precinct captain, is retiring this year.
Sentence Fragments in Informal English
When we're writing or speaking informally to friends and relatives, we do use fragments, and that's all right. However, the important word in the previous sentence is informally. Obviously, you need to know the difference between formal and informal occasions.
Informal: You say to your son, "Need money?" He says, "Sure." You both understand very well what those fragments mean.
In the workplace, informal English doesn't always work, especially in written communications. Look at this memo:
Re: Office Supplies
Got enough supplies?
In this case, there have to be many questions in the reader's mind. What supplies is Claire asking about? For what period of time is Claire inquiring—this quarter, next month, this afternoon? Better:
Re: Office Supplies
We are ordering tomorrow for the third quarter. What office supplies will you need? Please include all paper goods as well as computer supplies and printer ink. Please e-mail me or place your order on my desk by 4 P.M.
If fragments are pieces of sentences, run-ons are too many pieces running together. Have you ever seen or written a sentence such as the following?
Our new boss gave us his list of procedures some were already in our schedule.
Run-on sentences are very confusing to read since you don't know where one finishes and another starts. The two thoughts in this sentence could each stand alone:
Our new boss gave us his list of procedures. Some were already in our schedule.
Or since the thoughts are closely connected, they could be combined using a punctuation mark as shown in the following examples. (You'll learn much more about this in Chapter 4 and Chapter 5.)
Our new boss gave us his list of procedures; some were already in our schedule.
Our new boss gave us a list of procedures, but some were already in our schedule.
Another kind of sentence error is called a "comma fault" because sentences are strung together with the use of commas. For example:
We had to register we did, then we stood in line for an hour, then the line didn't move, we went home.
Note that removing the commas does not correct the problem, but results in a run-on sentence. You can, however, choose one of the following actions to correct the sentence:
- Write separate sentences.
- Change one or more commas to semicolons.
- Insert a coordinating conjunction such as and or but following the comma.
- Make one clause dependent upon the other.
All of these options will come into play in later chapters on building sentences and on punctuation.
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