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Sentence Fragments Tutorial

Sentence fragments: Dependent Clause Fragment, Forgetting a Subject, and -Ing Fragments

Sentence fragments are frequent in writing today, and inexperienced writers often struggle with them. Although writing complete sentences without using fragments may be difficult, it is important to know what fragments are and how to avoid them. A sentence fragment is a group of words that lack an independent clause. Without having an independent clause, a sentence is incomplete. This incomplete sentence is a fragment. A complete sentence is a group of words that express a complete thought. A sentence must have a subject that states what or who it is about. A sentence also states a verb that expresses an action or the action of the subject itself. Also, a sentence hooks the two together to make a complete thought. Without having one of these, the group of words do not have a complete thought. There are several types of fragments that include: dependent clause fragment, forgetting a subject, -ing fragments, and to fragments. A dependent clause fragment happens when there is a dependent word at the beginning of the sentence. Common types of dependent words are after, as, because, before, even if, if, since, when, unless, and while. An example of this would be, “After Fred went to the store”. To correct this sentence, remove the word “after”, or add other words such as “After Fred went to the store he came home.” This sentence now has a correct subject, verb, and a complete thought. Forgetting to add a subject is another type of error found in fragments.

With no subject, a sentence lacks purpose. An example of this would be “Did all of her chores.” Adding a subject turns this fragment into a sentence. “Elizabeth did all of her chores.” This sentence now has a subject, verb, and a complete thought. Another type of error found in sentence fragments include -ing fragments. -Ing fragments occur when writers use words ending in -ing at the beginning of sentences; some of these -ing words make the sentence a fragment. An example of this error is “hoping to finish on time.” This sentence lacks a subject and a linking verb. A correct way to write this sentence would be “The construction worker hopes to finish on time.” This sentence contains no fragments. “To fragments” is another type of fragment error. A “to fragment” occurs when a sentence starts with “to” and does not contain a subject or verb. An example of this would be “to the vet.” Adding a subject and a verb makes this a sentence, “Donald took his dog to the vet.” The last type of sentence fragment is the “example fragment.” This occurs when using words like: for example, including, and such as in the beginning of a word group. For example, “such as spaghetti”, lacks a subject and a complete thought. A way to correct this would be, “Josh likes to cook his favorite foods, such as spaghetti, when he is at home.”

What are prepositions? How to use them correctly. Exceptions to the rules

            Prepositions are relationships which link the remainder of the sentence together. There are several rules to regulate how and when prepositions are necessary. The first rule of prepositions is to make sure each is paired properly. Determining what preposition to use can be a tricky. It becomes much more difficult when dealing with idioms. Idioms are expressions that do not make much sense when taken in literal context. Here are some examples of idioms with a correct preposition proceeding it: Mary would love to attend the celebration. You’re capable of using the bathroom. Lue has been preoccupied with work this week. Customers are prohibited from climbing on the zoo exhibits. The words in bold-face are idioms with the correct pairing of a preposition. More often than not, if the sentence does not make sense, chances are the sentence has an incorrect use of a proposition. An example of an incorrect usage is: “Mary would love with attend the celebration.”

The second rule of prepositions is to be aware of what follows them. A preposition must contain a pronoun or a noun after the use of the preposition. The pronoun or noun is the object of the preposition. A verb cannot be the object of a preposition. Here are two examples of correct and incorrect usage:

  • The cat was for the boy. The preposition “for” is before a noun, making this sentence correct.
  • The cat was for jumped. The preposition “for” is incorrectly followed by the verb “jumped.” A verb can never follow a preposition.

There are however words that look like verbs that follow prepositions

  • Jake likes to ski.
  • These shoes are for skiing.

“Ski and skiing” are not verbs in these sentences. “to ski” is part of the infinitive while “skiing” is a gerund. An infinitive occurs when a verb is in place of a noun, adjective, or adverb. In the first example, “ski” is action the person enjoys doing. In the second example, the word “skiing” is a noun. In the second example, “Skiing” is the activity the shoes are for.

The third rule is to avoid the use of prepositions at the end of a sentence. Prepositions are followed by a noun or pronoun. Rarely does a preposition end a sentence.

  • The desk is where I put my books on.

This is an example where the preposition “on” should not end the sentence. There are some situations where a preposition can end a sentence.

  • I turned the Tv on.

The preposition “on” is used correctly at the end of the sentence. The only way a preposition can end the sentence is if the removal of the preposition changes the meaning of the sentence. If “on” is removed from the second example, then the sentence would have a different meaning. In most cases, a preposition should not end the sentence. The fourth rule of prepositions is to not substitute “of” for “have.”

  • He should of come over.
  • You should of brought me food
  • No one should of missed the meeting at 8 a.m.
  • There could of been a better way to land astronauts on the moon.

This is the correct way to construct the sentence.

  • He should have come over.
  • You should have brought me food.
  • No one should have missed the meeting at 8 a.m.
  • There could have been a better way to land astronauts on the moon.

Using the word “have” makes this sentence correct. “Have” is used as a linking verb while the word “of” does nothing to link the ideas together.

The fifth rule is to not confuse “in” and “into.” “Into” expresses the movement, while “in” states the location.

  • The dog swam in the lake.
  • The man walked into the store.

The dog swimming in the lake indicates the location. The man walking into the store expresses motion.

The last rule of prepositions is to not interchange “from” and “than.” This is more of a suggestion than an actual rule. Professional writers recommend knowing this “rule.”

  • You seem different than your dad.
  • You seem different from your dad.

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How to insert dashes into sentences correctly

            There are three main types of dashes: hyphen (-), en dash (–), and em dash (—). Hyphens indicate breaks within words such as “mass-produced.” Hyphens also separate numbers in a phone number (1-800-532-4304). Hyphens get used more often than the other types of dashes. The second dash is an en dash. An en dash separates numbers in a range. An example of an en dash would be “1863—1905.” Since this set of numbers describes a range of multiple numbers, an en dash is necessary. The last type of dash is an em dash. Em dashes can be used instead of commas. In some situations, using an em dash is better.

  • “Sometimes writing for money— instead of for fun and entertainment—is more enjoyable.

Another way to use an em dash is to separate inserted thoughts or clauses from the main clause.

  • Dawson came into the garage—was he happy?— and the heater started up again.

Em dashes can also occur when dialogue gets interrupted.

  • I brought my special bag inside the house—In front of your parents?

Dashes can be confusing and many professional writers do not know the rules on dashes. Dashes can be used like commas to separate numbers, and to insert thoughts and clauses from the main clause. Understanding the right ways to insert dashes can improve professional writing.

Understanding how to avoid sentence fragments, using prepositions correctly, and properly inserting dashes can positively effect writing skills. Remembering all these rules and standards will help any young writer unlock their full potential.

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Written by Sean Dodson

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