Center for Writers - Resources

FRAGMENTS


A fragment is a portion of a sentence that is punctuated as though it were a complete sentence. Most sentence fragments are phrases or dependent clauses. You can avoid writing sentence fragments if you recognize the difference between a fragment and a complete sentence.

                    Fragment        The telephone with two outside lines. [no verb]
                    Revised            The telephone has two outside lines.

                    Fragment         Having been king and ruler of all he surveyed. [no subject]
                    Revised             Having been king and ruler of all he surveyed, John found it
                                                        difficult to step down .

                    Fragment         Because the telephone rang loudly. [dependent clause]
                    Revised             Because the telephone rang loudly, the family was awakened.

If you write sentence fragments frequently, you need a system to check that your sentences are complete. Here is a test to use if you suspect that you have written a sentence fragment.

            1.        Is there a verb?
            2.         Is there a subject?
            3.         Do the subject and verb start with a subordinating word but lack an
                        independent clause to complete the thought?

Clauses are grammatically related groups of words that contain a subject and a predicate
 
                    Dependent Clauses contain subjects and predicates but begin with subordinating
                                words and, therefore, cannot stand alone as sentences.

                    A Subordinating Conjunction is one type of subordinating word (after, although,
                                as, because, before, even though, if, since, though, unless, until, when,
                                whenever, where, wherever).

                    A Relative Pronoun is another type of subordinating word (that, what, whatever,
                                which, whichever, who, whoever).
 
Correcting Sentence Fragments

Revise dependent clauses punctuated as sentences and join them to adjacent independent clauses, or revise them into independent clauses.

                    Fragment        Many people over twenty-five years of age are deciding to get
                                                    college degrees.  Because they want the benefits of an
                                                    advanced education.

                    Revision          Many people over twenty-five years or age are deciding to get
                                                    college degrees because they want the benefits of an advanced
                                                    education. (one sentence)

                    Revision          Many people over twenty-five years of age are deciding to get
                                                    college degrees. They want the benefits of an advanced
                                                    education. (structures combined)

Another Possible Fragment Problem

                    Prepositional phrases (phrase containing a preposition, its object, and any
                                modifiers)
 
                    Fragment        Cigarette smoke made the conference room seem airless. During the
                                                    long news conference.

                    Revision          Cigarette smoke make the conference room seem airless during the
                                                    long news conference. (one sentence)