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Osceola Writing Center

Sentence Fragments

Besides being a grammar problem, fragments can interrupt your reader's flow as he/she encounters something "broken." Once you know what is missing, they can be fairly easy to fix.

Fragments

 

What is it?

A fragment "sentence," like the name implies, is only a piece of a sentence; it is not complete because it is not an independent clause, but a period has been placed after it as if it were a complete sentence.

Example:

When I go to school.
 

Independent Clauses

Before you fix a fragment, you have to know what a sentence, or independent clause, requires. An independent clause, in its most basic form, is a subject + a verb that can stand alone (if you put a period at the end, it's a complete sentence).

How to Fix

Now that you know a sentence needs to be an independent clause, meaning you need a main subject and a verb, you'll have to find out what your incomplete sentence is missing.

1) If your fragment is a dependent clause, like the example above, you are missing the whole independent clause.

When I go to school....what? I need more info.

When I go to school, I always take my backpack.

2) If your sentence fragment is some other kind of clause/phrase, you might just need to attach the fragment to a complete sentence before or after.

Joe fell down the stairs. Breaking his leg in the process.

Joe fell down the stairs, breaking his leg in the process.

3) Sometimes a fragment is simply missing a subject; add it back in and you have a complete sentence (you may need some other words to make the sentence fit well).

The principal at the school let the students go home early. And decided to give them the rest of the week off. (who decided?)

The principal at the school let the students go home early. He also decided to give them the rest of the week off.

4) At other times, a fragment sentence may be missing a verb or part of a verb.

Missing main verb:

The owl on the branch of the swaying willow tree. (the owl did what?)

The owl on the branch of the swaying willow tree watched the mice foraging in the grass.

Missing helping verb:

The people at the county fair watching the tractor pulls.

The people at the county fair are watching the tractor pulls.

5) Finally, a fragment might be the result of an incomplete thought, even if a subject and verb are present.

The dog is. (unless we're having an existential discussion, this is an incomplete thought- the dog is what?)

The dog is in the backyard.

 

More Resources

 

Exercises

 

 
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