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Avoiding sentence fragments

A sentence fragment is one that doesn’t have an independent clause - a clause that can stand by itself. Here’s one example of a sentence fragment:

Although he is tired.

One reason why people sometimes write sentence fragments is because it’s OK to use a fragment when you’re talking with someone else. Here’s a perfectly acceptable conversation:

"When will you be leaving for the party?"

"In five minutes."

But when you’re writing a normal essay, you want to avoid fragments just about all of the time.

One common cause of a sentence fragment is having a complete sentence, but then unintentionally turning it into a fragment by putting a dependent word somewhere within it:

Because the Tyrannosaurus Rex beat the larger Giganotosaurus.

This is a sentence fragment, but only because of the stupid ‘because’ at the front of it. Get rid of that and you’re fine:

The Tyrannosaurus Rex beat the larger Giganotosaurus.

Avoiding sentence fragments

You can also accidentally create a fragment if you get so involved with describing something in a sentence that you forget to have either the subject or the verb in a proper subject-verb relationship:

The treetops, swaying in the gentle breeze.

I’ve got carried away with my description of the trees in this sentence fragment, but have forgotten to provide a verb to go with the subject ‘treetops’. Here it is as a complete sentence with a verb:

The treetops are beautiful, swaying in the gentle breeze.

Or you can do the opposite thing and provide the verb, but forget to provide or even imply the subject:

Nurtured through the hostile mountain passes to try and keep them alive.

In this sentence, we’ve got a verbal phrase, but we’ve forgotten to provide a subject that goes with this verbal phrase. A complete sentence version of this is:

The elephants were nurtured through the hostile mountain passes to try to keep them alive.