Sentence Fragments And Complete Sentences
Thanks go to Julie for the correction about conjunctions!
Fragments, or incomplete sentences, occur quite frequently when we speak, so it's no wonder sentence fragments are often found in formal writing. Consider this example:
Sam's response demonstrates the way we use fragmentation in speech. Though the remark includes the verb "finish" and several nouns, the sentence is a fragment. It lacks a subject and verb to define the sentence. A corrected response would include a subject and verb:
Learning how we use fragments in our speech will help us avoid sentence fragments in our writing.
Fragments in Writing
Sometimes fragments occur during the editing process, in trying to break up a longer sentence. Consider the following:
Again, the second phrase includes several nouns and a verb, but it cannot stand alone. The subject of the first sentence is "we" and the verb "talked." Since the clause is dependant (a clause that makes no sense except when attached to a sentence) it should not form a sentence.
Correcting a Fragment
There are two easy ways to correct a fragment. We'll use the example above to demonstrate each method:
How to Spot a Fragment
Put each phrase through a simple test:
Any phrase that answers "yes" to all three questions is a sentence. If any of the answers are "no," then it is a fragment.
Fragments often start with words like these. Some are prepositions, others are conjunctions, but both are words that normally join other words:
When you see such a word at the beginning of a sentence, check for a proper subject and verb. If you can't find one, the sentence is a fragment.
Remember, even phrases which may have a noun and verb can be fragments if they could not stand alone. "Unless it rains" makes no sense by itself, so it should be attached to a sentence: