The Writing Center
HOURS: Mon - Thurs: 8-4, Fri 8-2
Sentence fragments are just what their name suggests: wordings which are only part of a sentence but which are written as if they were a complete sentence, with a capitalized word at the start and a period, question mark, or exclamation point at the end.
Sentence fragments do have legitimate uses. We use them in everyday conversation quite frequently, as for example when a student replies "A little" after being asked, "Did you study for the test?" Advertisements in newspapers and magazines often use sentence fragments. And even in essays for general readers, fragments can sometimes be helpful in creating a relaxed or playful tone, as in the following passage, which has the sentence fragment in bold:
But in most writing you'll do for college classes, sentence fragments are likely to be inappropriate. In fact, most of your professors probably consider sentence fragments to be rather serious errors in their students' writing. So let's take a look at how sentence fragments occur and how to eliminate them when they're inappropriate.
Sometimes the sentence fragment may lack either a complete subject or a complete predicate, as in the following examples, in which the bolded materials are sentence fragments:
Sometimes the sentence fragment may contain a complete subject and complete predicate but is still not a complete sentence because it begins with a subordinating conjunction such as although or because, or by a relative pronoun such as who or that, as in the following examples:
In most cases, the simplest, most effective way to correct an unintentional sentence fragment is to connect it with the previous complete sentence by changing a period before the fragment to a comma and eliminating the capital letter at the start of the fragment:
Of course, sentence fragments can be eliminated in other ways as well--for example, by rewording the fragment itself so that it becomes a complete sentence, rather than connecting it to the previous complete sentence. Here's an example:
But again, simply connecting the fragment to the previous sentence by use of a comma is usually the best solution.