Sentence Fragment – What The #@*$?

November 16, 2011

in Technical Writing

I feel your pain, and I know how it feels when that annoying grammar checker in MS Word keeps highlighting fragmented sentences. When you break it down it’s an easy one to solve. First let us start by looking at the meaning of the word fragment:

Fragment Definition: an incomplete piece; something detached; a portion of a whole.

…Got it?

Right, so a sentence fragment is an incomplete sentence. This cardinal grammar sin is committed usually by misplacing a full stop and allowing a sub clause to become a sentence on its own; a main clause impostor, if you like. By that I mean the following:

“I wanted to go to the shop. Because I was hungry”.

Should read:

“I wanted to go to the shop, because I was hungry”.

In the first example “Because I was hungry: is a fragment. How do I know? Because my grammar checker just told me. No, really. The sentence is separated from the main clause and doesn’t require the full stop. You see, a main clause can be a complete sentence by itself. The main clause can come first or last; if it comes last, you need a comma. For example:

“Because I was hungry, I wanted to go to the shop”.

Often people will tell you that you can’t start a sentence with “because” or “and” because you will always create a fragment. This is false. You just need to put the comma in the correct place. For example:

“And so it was that she decided to leave me, and I forfeited myself to a life of solitude.”

Or…

“Because Moggy wanted to pass the exam so badly, she cheated by looking over Brian’s shoulder in the exam hall.”

But wait. Those sentence fragments could be statements, couldn’t they?

Indeed they could, and you will often see sentence fragments in novels and short stories, but more often than not they sit right at the end of a paragraph, not in the middle breaking up sentences unnecessarily.

Toodle pip!

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