How to Avoid Fragments When Writing: Write Complete Sentences Using a Simple Grammar Self-Check
August 24, 2021

How to Avoid Fragments When Writing: Write Complete Sentences Using a Simple Grammar Self-Check

Many students have difficulty identifying sentence fragments in their writing. Here's a simple three-step check to help budding writers avoid sentence fragments.

Even high school students occasionally have trouble composing complete sentences. After all, as student thinking grows more complex, so does the sentence structure in their writing. While it’s more challenging to spot grammatical snafus in compound and complex sentences, students can master this skill. Being an essay writer, I have elaborated a simple lesson that teachers can share with their students to ensure students understand how to eliminate these common grammar errors during the editing process.

Three-Step Check to Identify Sentence Fragments

A fragment is any group of words that does not contain a subject and a verb and express a complete thought. It is incorrectly punctuated as a sentence. Often, fragments of that phrases can be corrected simply by attaching them to nearby sentences; other times, they may need a simple addition to complete the sentence. The simple process described below will help students quickly identify fragments in their writing.

Teachers should encourage their students to ask themselves the following three questions when on the prowl for pesky fragments.

  • Does the group of words have a subject?
  • Does the group of words have a verb?
  • Does the group of words express a complete thought?

If the answer is no to any of the above questions, then the sentence in question is surely a fragment. Students can consider the following examples.

Three Ways to Correct a Sentence Fragment

The subject, always a noun, is the word or phrase acting in the sentence. The following sentence lacks a subject. Readers will inevitably wonder who was dancing. To correct this fragment, a subject must be added.

Fragment: Dancing throughout the evening with little concern for time or companionship.

Complete: Dancing throughout the evening with little concern for time or companionship, the woman regretted ever leaving the stage.

The verb communicates what the subject is doing. While verbs often express an action, they can also simply relay a state of being. In this fragment, readers are curious about what happened to the woman being described. If a verb is added to explain what the woman did, the sentence would be complete.

Fragment: The woman who showed little concern for time or companionship.

Complete: The woman who showed little concern for time or companionship reflected upon her failed career as a ballerina.

A sentence always expresses a complete thought. If a reader is left hanging at the end of a sentence, chances are he has encountered a fragment. The following fragment needs an explanation as to what happened after the woman went to the ballot for so many years. Completing this fragment doing academic writing can be accomplished in a variety of ways, such as adding an independent clause to the end of the existing dependent clause.

Fragment: After going to the ballet all these years even when her financial situation barred her lessons.

Complete: After going to the ballet all these years even when her financial situation barred her lessons, the woman memorized every graceful twirl.

Fragments are easy to fix once students understand common writing pitfalls, such as treating dependent clauses as if they are independent. Instead, students should analyze their sentences, seeking out those which seem to leave the reader unfulfilled. These fragments will stand out as lacking either a subject or a verb; otherwise, they may somehow fail to express a complete thought. By using the simple three-step check, students will know what to look for when editing their writing.

About the author: Jared Watney is a professional writer on kingessays.com. Besides, he is a passionate stories writer. In this case, he dreams of self-publishing his book. Moreover, Jared started drawing images for it by himself.