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Sentence Fragments

Summary:

This handout provides an overview and examples of sentence fragments.

Fragments are incomplete sentences. Usually, fragments are pieces of sentences that have become disconnected from the main clause. One of the easiest ways to correct them is to remove the period between the fragment and the main clause. Other kinds of punctuation may be needed for the newly combined sentence.

Below are some examples with the fragments shown in red. Punctuation and/or words added to make corrections are highlighted in blue. Notice that the fragment is frequently a dependent clause or long phrase that follows the main clause.

  • Fragment: Purdue offers many majors in engineering. Such as electrical, chemical, and industrial engineering.
    Possible Revision: Purdue offers many majors in engineering, such as electrical, chemical, and industrial engineering.
  • Fragment: Coach Dietz exemplified this behavior by walking off the field in the middle of a game. Leaving her team at a time when we needed her.
    Possible Revision: Coach Dietz exemplified this behavior by walking off the field in the middle of a game, leaving her team at a time when we needed her.
  • Fragment: I need to find a new roommate. Because the one I have now isn't working out too well.
    Possible Revision: I need to find a new roommate because the one I have now isn't working out too well.
  • Fragment: The current city policy on housing is incomplete as it stands. Which is why we believe the proposed amendments should be passed.
    Possible Revision: Because the current city policy on housing is incomplete as it stands, we believe the proposed amendments should be passed.

You may have noticed that newspaper and magazine journalists often use a dependent clause as a separate sentence when it follows clearly from the preceding main clause, as in the last example above. This is a conventional journalistic practice, often used for emphasis. For academic writing and other more formal writing situations, however, you should avoid such journalistic fragment sentences.

Some fragments are not clearly pieces of sentences that have been left unattached to the main clause; they are written as main clauses but lack a subject or main verb.

No main verb

  • Fragment: A story with deep thoughts and emotions.
    Possible Revisions:
    • Direct object: She told a story with deep thoughts and emotions.
    • Appositive: Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," a story with deep thoughts and emotions, has impressed critics for decades.
  • Fragment: Toys of all kinds thrown everywhere.
    Possible Revisions:
    • Complete verb: Toys of all kinds were thrown everywhere.
    • Direct object: They found toys of all kinds thrown everywhere.
  • Fragment: A record of accomplishment beginning when you were first hired.
    Possible Revisions:
    • Direct object: I've noticed a record of accomplishment beginning when you were first hired
    • Main verb: A record of accomplishment began when you were first hired.

No Subject

  • Fragment: With the ultimate effect of all advertising is to sell the product.
    Possible Revisions:
    • Remove preposition: The ultimate effect of all advertising is to sell the product.
  • Fragment: By paying too much attention to polls can make a political leader unwilling to propose innovative policies.
    Possible Revisions:
    • Remove preposition: Paying too much attention to polls can make a political leader unwilling to propose innovative policies.
  • Fragment: For doing freelance work for a competitor got Phil fired.
    Possible Revisions:
    • Remove preposition: Doing freelance work for a competitor got Phil fired.
    • Rearrange: Phil got fired for doing freelance work for a competitor.

These last three examples of fragments with no subjects are also known as mixed constructions, that is, sentences constructed out of mixed parts. They start one way (often with a long prepositional phrase) but end with a regular predicate. Usually the object of the preposition (often a gerund, as in the last two examples) is intended as the subject of the sentence, so removing the preposition at the beginning is usually the easiest way to edit such errors.

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Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.