Recognizing and Avoiding 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 italics. Notice that the fragment is frequently a dependent clause or long phrase that follows the main clause.

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

Fragment (incomplete main clause) Possible Revisions
No main verb
A story with deep thoughts and emotions.
AppositiveGilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” a story with deep thoughts and emotions, has impressed critics for decades.
Direct objectShe told a story with deep thoughts and emotions.
Toys of all kinds thrown everywhere. Complete verbToys of all kinds were thrown everywhere.
Direct objectThey found toys of all kinds thrown everywhere.
A record of accomplishment beginning when you were first hired. Direct objectI’ve noticed a record of accomplishment beginning when you were first hired.
Main verbA record of accomplishment began when you were first hired.
No subject
With the ultimate effect of all advertising is to sell the product.
Remove preposition:The ultimate effect of all advertising is to sell the product.
By paying too much attention to polls can make a political leader unwilling to propose innovative policies. Remove preposition:Paying too much attention to polls can make a political leader unwilling to propose innovative policies.
For doing freelance work for a competitor got Phil fired. Remove preposition:Doing freelance work for a competitor got Phil fired.
RearrangePhil got fired for doing freelance work for a competitor.

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