Sentence Boundaries

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Sentence Boundaries

Fragments | Run-ons | Comma Splices

Sentence Boundaries: Fragments

There are three types of fragments that cannot stand alone as sentences: subordinate conjunction fragments, verbal fragments, and added information fragments.

Subordinate Conjunction Fragments

A word group that begins with a subordinate conjunction cannot stand alone as a sentence, but must be attached to an independent clause, a word group that can stand alone. Watch for these common subordinate conjunctions.

after although as (as if) because
before even (even if/even though) how  
if in order that rather than since
so that than that though
while unless until when
where which who whom
whose why    

 

NO: You must inform our client of the outcome of yesterday's hearing. Unless you have already done so.
YES: Unless you have already done so, you must inform our client of the outcome of yesterday's hearing.

 


Verbal Fragments

Often a word group contains a word that looks like a verb, but is actually a verbal that functions as a noun, adjective, or adverb. One type of verbal ends in ing or ed, while another verbal form is marked by a to before the verb (walking, walked, to walk; using, used, to use; carrying, carried, to carry).

NO: Walking the dog in the sunshine while birds sing and cats gambol.
YES: Walking the dog in the sunshine while birds sing and cats gambol is my favorite spring-time activity.

NO: A hat can serve many purposes. Used to protect balding heads from sunburn.
YES: Used for anything from adding flair to a wardrobe to protecting balding heads from the sun, hats serve many purposes.

NO: To carry the ball, the bat, the bag, and the cat into the house.
YES: He is trying to carry the ball, the bat, the bag, and the cat into the house.

Added Detail Fragments

An added detail fragment usually gives more information about the previous sentence. These fragments often begin with one of these words:

for example including also
such as except especially

NO: Some pets are expensive to maintain. For example, the horse.
YES: Some pets are expensive to maintain. Horses, for example, must be boarded.

Fixing Fragments

1. For a subordinate conjunction, verbal, or added detail fragment, use a comma to attach the fragment to an independent clause.

NO: They do not intend to attend the free lecture tonight. Because they have homework.
YES: Because they have homework, they do not intend to attend the free lecture tonight.

NO: They finished their homework earlier today. Intending to attend the free lecture tonight.
YES: Intending to attend the free lecture tonight, they finished their homework earlier today.

NO: They attended the free lecture tonight for many reasons. Including the price.
YES: They attended the free lecture tonight for many reasons, including the price.

2. Either remove the subordinate conjunction or add a subject and a verb to make the fragment into an independent clause.

a. For subordinate conjunction fragments, remove the subordinate conjunction.

NO: They do not intend to attend the free lecture tonight. Because they have homework.
YES: They do not intend to attend the free lecture tonight. Each has homework.

NO: She will continue to major in mathematics. Since she appears to have a talent for it.
YES: She will continue to major in mathematics. She appears to have a talent for it.

NO: Although the rainy and cold weather continues. She is biking to Portland in the race.
YES: The rainy and cold weather continues. She is biking to Portland in the race.

b. For verbal or added detail fragments, add a subject and a verb.

NO: It was a stormy night. Continuing to howl and bluster until daybreak.
YES: It was a stormy night. The wind continued to howl and bluster until daybreak.

NO: They attended the free lecture tonight for many reasons. Including the price.
YES: They attended the free lecture tonight for many reasons. One reason included the price.

 


Sentence Boundaries: Run-ons and Comma Splices

Run-Ons

A run-on is a sentence that connects two independent clauses without any punctuation. One type of run-on contains two independent clauses laid side-by-side. These can be hard to spot, but reading the writing aloud helps you hear which word groups belong together.

The most common type of run-on joins independent clauses connected without a comma by a coordinating conjunction, also known as FANBOYS:

for and nor but or yet so

NO: Humor is universal among cultures what counts as funny differs from culture to culture.
YES: Humor is universal among cultures. What counts as funny differs from cultures to culture.

NO: Gestures are a common form of communication to everyone but they are essential among the hearing impaired.
YES: Gestures are a common form of communication to everyone, but they are essential among the hearing impaired.

 


Comma Splices

When two independent clauses are joined (or spliced) together with a comma, the error is called a comma splice. This error most commonly occurs when a compound sentence contains an adverb that often appears between two independent clauses. Watch for the following adverbs which often (not always) signal two independent clauses.

additionally consequently furthermore hence
however instead moreover nevertheless
otherwise rather still then
therefore thus    

NO: I went to the store to buy bananas however, they were out.
NO: I went to the store to buy bananas, however, they were out.
YES: I went to the store to buy bananas; however, they were out.

NO: She was planning on walking to work, instead, she drove her car.
YES: She was planning on walking to work; instead, she drove her car.

NO: Statistics show that infant mortality is higher among males than among females, therefore, some believe that women are biologically superior to men.
YES: Statistics show that infant mortality is higher among males than among females; therefore, some believe that women are biologically superior to men.

Fixing Run-Ons and Comma Splices

SAMPLE ERROR: (RUN-ON)
NO: Humor is universal among cultures what counts as funny is different from culture to culture.

SAMPLE ERROR: (COMMA SPLICE)
NO: Statistics show that infant mortality is higher among males than among females, therefore, some believe that women are biologically superior to men.

1. Use a comma and a coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS--for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) to separate the independent clauses.

YES: Humor is universal among cultures, but what counts as funny is different from culture to culture.
YES: Statistics show that infant mortality is higher among males than among females, so some believe that women are biologically superior to men.

2. Use a semicolon to separate the independent clauses.

YES: Humor is universal among cultures; what counts as funny is different from culture to culture.
YES: Statistics show that infant mortality is higher among males than among females; therefore, some believe that women are biologically superior to men.

3. Use a subordinating conjunction to make one of the clauses subordinate to the other. (Use a comma to separate the clauses).

YES: Although humor is universal among cultures, what counts as funny is different from culture to culture.
YES: Since statistics show that infant mortality is higher among males than among females, some believe that women are biologically superior to men.

4. Use a period to make the independent clauses into separate sentences.

YES: Humor is universal among cultures. What counts as funny is different from culture to culture.
YES: Statistics show that infant mortality is higher among males than among females. Therefore, some believe that women are biologically superior to men.

Practice On Your Own

1. Write three sentences, attaching each of the types of fragments (subordinate conjunction, verbal, and added detail).

2. Write seven sentences with two independent clauses joined by one of each of the seven coordinating conjunctions (FANBOYS).

3. Write five sentences with two independent clauses joined by a semicolon (try four with an adverb and four without).

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