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Posted by on Jul 24, 2017

Recognize and Revise Sentence Fragments

A sentence fragment is a group of words that does not comprise a complete sentence. When you’re writing a first draft, and again when you’re proofreading or revising, look closely at each sentence you write and ask yourself whether it fits the criteria for a complete sentence.

There are several possible reasons a sentence may be incomplete:

  • It has no subject.
    Social networking sites have had a huge effect on the ways companies market their products. And have influenced consumer behavior as well.
  • It has no verb.
    Many NFL players employ big-time agents. Especially the most talented ones.
  • It has neither subject nor verb.
    The film Avatar uses many plot devices of earlier films. Including an American savior and an alien race. (The word “including” is a gerund, which cannot function as a main verb.)
  • It is a dependent clause.
    Barack Obama was ultimately successful in getting his landmark healthcare legislation passed. Which made the Republicans very angry.

Revising Sentence Fragments:

Most of the time, the easiest way to fix a sentence fragment is simply to attach the dependent clause to the main clause (that is, remove the period between the sentences and make other small changes of punctuation and letter case). In the following examples, the sentence fragments are shown in red and the revisions correcting them in blue.

  • Fragment: There are many examples of pop culture stars who are not good role models. Such as TV personality Heidi Montag, who has had over ten plastic surgeries because of her ridiculous need for fame.
    Revision: There are many examples of pop culture stars who are not good role models, such as TV personality Heidi Montag, who has had over ten plastic surgeries because of her ridiculous need for fame.
  • Fragment: Greed and recklessness have caused many economic crises. Including the latest recession in the United States.
    Revision: Greed and recklessness have caused many economic crises, including the latest recession in the United States.

Sometimes other concerns can influence the way you choose to correct a sentence fragment. Let’s look at effective ways to revise some of the examples cited above.

  • Fragment: Social networking sites have had a huge effect on the ways companies market their products.And have influenced consumer behavior as well.
    Revision: Social networking sites have not only had a huge effect on the ways companies market their products, but have influenced consumer behavior as well. (Notice how the revision emphasizes the range of effects the sites have had, making the writer’s point more explicit.)
  • Fragment: Many NFL players employ big-time agents. Especially the most talented ones.
    Revision: Many NFL players, especially the most talented ones, employ big-time agents. (In this case, placing the sentence fragment within the main clause prevents any confusion about whether the pronoun “ones” refers to the players or the agents.)
  • Fragment: Barack Obama was ultimately successful in getting his landmark healthcare legislation passed.Which made the Republicans very angry.
    Revision: Barack Obama was ultimately successful in getting his landmark healthcare legislation passed. This made the Republicans very angry. (In this example, the sentence fragment is a dependent clause because it begins with the relative pronoun “which.” One easy fix is simply to change the relative pronoun to the demonstrative pronoun “this,” since a demonstrative pronoun can start an independent clause.)

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