Spotting and Fixing Sentence Fragments

Most writers are familiar with the rule that every sentence should contain a subject, verb and complete thought. Look around, though, and you’ll see this grammar rule broken often, sometimes on purpose, other times less so. Whether you think sentence fragments add flair to writing or show poor proofreading, it’s clear that using sentence fragments on accident or in the wrong place isn’t ideal. Read on for a refresher on finding and fixing sentence fragments that need a little extra attention.

How To Identify Sentence Fragments

The simplest fragments are sentences that completely lack a subject or verb. Some contain words that resemble subjects or verbs but don’t quite fulfill those roles. Here are some sentence fragment examples:

  • The hour before my writing deadline. Too much caffeine. Blank screen. Desperation.
  • Other writers struggling with the same problem.

Unfortunately, there is no lazy fix for these fragments; you just have to go through and add in the missing pieces.

  • The hour before my writing deadline usually involves too much caffeine, a blank screen and desperation.
  • It’s consoling to think of other writers struggling with the same problem.

Unfinished Thoughts Can Also Be Sentence Fragments

Sentences that contain subjects and verbs can still be fragments. These sentence fragments are often nearly functional sentences that have been reduced to dependent clauses because of one little word. If you find yourself asking questions because a sentence didn’t express a full thought, you’ve found a fragment. Here are some examples of this type of fragmented sentence:

  • I was getting caught up on work. Until I started shopping online and forgot about writing.
  • Because I naively thought that a break would improve my productivity.

You can make these poor almost-sentences whole by adding them to the clauses that they depend on. In some cases, you can also simply delete the extra word or unnecessary punctuation.

  • I was getting caught up on work until I started shopping online and forgot about writing.
  • I naively thought that a break would improve my productivity.

The Bottom Line: Fix Those Sentence Fragments!

Many writers know these rules but occasionally break them for the sake of style. Fragments can add emphasis, make dialogue realistic or help writing feel less formal. If you’re writing for creative or personal purposes, feel free to bend the rules. For professional writing, though, play it safe and work on fixing sentence fragments.

Do you have any other questions specific to how to fix sentence fragments? Or, do you have questions about other writing rules that seem breakable in some settings and compulsory in others? Let us know in the comments section!


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