Sentence Fragment Monsters Coming to Destroy Your Writing!

Don’t let sentence fragments detract from your amazing message!

Avoid                                             stop sign

When writing, try to avoid using sentence fragments.

Now, they are fine for your brainstorming but you don’t want them in your final draft.

Avoiding sentence fragments in your rough draft is also a good idea because you will become accustomed to writing in full sentences and have fewer edits to make on your final copy.

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What are they?

What exactly is a sentence fragment?

Basically, a sentence fragment is part of a sentence, but only part, masquerading as a real sentence!

You are missing some essential element.  The following three examples all look like sentences, but they aren’t.  They are all sentence fragments.

  1. You might have a subject but not predicate:

My aged mother from the senior citizen’s green acres retirement centre.

  1. You might have a predicate but no subject:

Invented a new solution to the problem of inner city traffic and pedestrian interaction.

  1. You might have a subordinating word that makes the clause dependent:

After the colourful turtles crossed the road in the morning.

To have a complete sentence, you need at least one independent clause.

When the massive blue bus careened around the rocky curve at the top of Bluebird Hill.

This certainly seems to be a sentence.  It has a capital and a period for end punctuation. It has a series of words that make sense talking about one main idea; however, the thought is not complete.  What happened when the bus careened around the curve?  We don’t know.  The writer forgot to include this information in the main sentence.

You will notice that simply removing the word “When” creates a full sentence.  However, with the subordinating word “When,” the group of words is dependent, and you will need to add something to complete the thought.

When the massive blue bus careened around the rocky curve at the top of Bluebird Hill, we all thought we were doomed.

Help is on the way!

One easy (although not entirely accurate) way to tell whether a sentence is complete or a fragment is to imagine someone saying it to you.  Does it make sense?

After the party at Exhibition Park.

Drawing a line through the sand.

Screamed at the top of his lungs.

When you say these aloud to yourself – you have unanswered questions such as “What happened after the party?” and “Who screamed?”

At times this can be confusing.  For example: I can’t read it.

You might say this is a fragment because we don’t know what “it” is; however, we do have a subject “I” and a predicate “can’t read it,” and we don’t have any subordinating words.  So, although we don’t know everything at this point, the sentence itself is complete. Presumably this would be part of a series of sentences rather than a stand-alone sentence.

Technically

  1. Check to see that you have at least one subject and one predicate.
  2. Check that you have at least one independent clause.

Exceptions

Most of these points about sentence fragments apply to formal, academic writing.  There are times when a sentence fragment is helpful – particularly in fiction writing. Writing fiction or poetry breaks many of the formal rules in order to create a more realistic scene or dialogue.  We generally don’t speak or have a conversation with someone using full sentences and formal grammar at all times. Also, when giving an order or command, the subject is “implied” rather than stated.  (My two points under “Technically” are examples.)

Close the window.    (The subject is implied.  Often assumed to be “you.”)

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One more point

Don’t worry.  Keep writing.  The important thing is to keep practising and writing what you love to write about.

Getting feedback and direction can be essential if you need to, or want to, improve your technique, style, and final product.

Here is one place to start:

Paragraph Writing Lessons

Website: www.tutoringcentral.com

Video: Sentence Fragments

Ron

 

3 thoughts on “Sentence Fragment Monsters Coming to Destroy Your Writing!

  1. Hi Ron. Great post. Just a word though with regards fragments as part of stories. They can be used very effectively if the correct part of the sentence is used. For instance
    He chose his seat carefully. Not too close to the front.
    We often speak and think in fragmented sentences and to add realism to dialogue, this tool can be very useful.

    • Hi Robert,
      I agree. My post was not complete. In fact, I am still adding to it. I have no idea which combinations I pushed to move a sentence and ended up accidentally publishing before I had completed the post or even formatted everything!
      Most of my students are looking at writing essays, book reports, or passing English language exams, so knowing the more formal rules is important.
      Fiction writing, as you say, can be quite different. Still, conquering the rules first and then learning to break them effectively when appropriate would be a good standard.
      Thank you for adding to my post. I really appreciate it.

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