Chapter 22: Fixing sentence fragments.
* identify various types of sentence fragments;
* fix fragments by adding a missing subject or verb;
* fix phrase fragments by combining them with another sentence;
* fix subordinate clause fragments by deleting the subordinating conjunction or by combining them with another sentence; and
* fix relative clause fragments by changing a pronoun or by combining them with another sentence.
Our sentences tell our readers not only about our ideas but also about us. If our sentences contain errors, readers may conclude that we have been careless in proofreading or that we don't know how to fix these errors. Sentence fragments are considered "very serious" errors by both academic and business professionals (see Chapter 29), so let's see what we can do about fixing them.
We have said that a complete sentence requires a subject, a verb, and stand-alone idea. Thus an incomplete sentence or sentence fragment is missing one or more of those ingredients. It's as if you were served a plate with mashed potatoes and broccoli but no protein, or as if you tried to bake bread without the yeast. To fix the dish--or the sentence--you need to add the missing ingredients.
IDENTIFYING SENTENCE FRAGMENTS
To identify a sentence fragment, ask yourself whether the sentence has a subject and a verb, and--if it does--whether it can stand alone, that is, whether it is an independent or main clause rather than a dependent or subordinate one. Let's look at an example:
The winning contestant in an extraordinarily exciting episode of Iron Chef.
We have a subject, contestant, but no verb. What is the contestant doing? To fix the sentence, we need to add a verb:
The winning contestant in an extraordinarily exciting episode of Iron Chef beamed.
Here's another example:
Nibbled a small piece of Asiago cheese.
Here we have a verb, nibbled, but no subject. Who nibbled the cheese? This time, we need to add a subject:
The tiny gray mouse nibbled a small piece of Asiago cheese.
Other fragments may lack both a subject and a verb, like the following example:
Into the frying pan.
We might add the missing ingredients as follows:
Geraldine put the butter and onions into the frying pan.
Finally, there is a type of fragment that contains a subject and verb but nevertheless cannot stand on its own. It's a dependent or subordinate clause, rather than an independent one.
Although the pork was a bit tough.
This "sentence" has a subject, pork, and a verb, was. However, it is a sentence fragment because it cannot stand alone. What about the pork? We could fix the sentence as follows:
Although the pork was a bit tough, it had an excellent flavor.
The stand-alone idea is not only about missing information, however. For example, the sentence "That's right" is complete even though we don't know what that refers to. Sentence completeness is really more about the structure of the sentence than about its content. When a sentence contains a subject, a verb, and a subordinating conjunction such as the word although--that is, when it is a subordinate clause--it is structurally incomplete unless it is joined to a main or independent clause. The word although is like a coat hanger, and the clause the pork was a bit tough hangs from it like a pair of pants. If the coat hanger is physically hooked over a rod in a closet or over your hand, the pants are safe. Similarly, if the subordinate clause is "hooked" to a main clause, such as it had an excellent flavor, it forms a complete sentence. But if the coat hanger tries to hover in the air on its own, it will fall to the ground, bringing the pants with it.
Exercise 22.1 | Identifying Sentence Fragments
Read each "sentence" carefully, from the capital letter to the period, and identify it as a complete sentence or a fragment.
-- 1. Rachel was taking a class in identifying fruits and vegetables.
-- 2. Learned to recognize twenty varieties of fresh herbs.
-- 3. The differences between marjoram and oregano particularly subtle.
-- 4. At the local farmer's market on the outskirts of town.
-- 5. Although she studied hard for the quiz.
Of course, it's one thing to identify sentence fragments when they're listed separately, as in Exercise 22.1. It is much more difficult to identify them when they are hidden in our essays.
Sentence fragments often appear in our writing because we wrongly place a period in the middle of a thought. The earlier examples might have looked like this in our paper:
Geraldine put the butter and onions. Into the frying pan. Although the pork was a bit tough. It had an excellent flavor.
Because the two parts are close together (not actually missing from the text), it is easy when proofreading to ignore the period and see the two parts as a whole. Therefore, it is very important to read carefully over the final draft of your paper and consider each "sentence" as a unit. Read from the capital letter to the period, and ask yourself whether the sentence contains the three necessary ingredients of a complete sentence. Sometimes it is useful to read the last sentence first, then the next to last, and so on. In that way we do not get caught up in the flow of ideas, and we are more likely to catch errors in grammar and punctuation. It's also helpful to read the sentence aloud. Our voices will naturally drop when we come to the end of an idea that can stand alone. If our voices don't drop but instead stop suddenly, up in the air, so to speak, we may have a sentence fragment.
Exercise 22.2 | Fixing Sentence Fragments
Read each "sentence" carefully, from the capital letter to the period. Fix any sentence fragments by joining them to the sentence before or after.
1. Vincenzo owns a popular Italian restaurant. On New York's lower East Side.
2. After immigrating to the United States. Vincenzo's family finally gathered enough capital to open the restaurant.
3. The restaurant features old family recipes from the south of Italy. Such as Insalata Pantesca.
4. Committed to hiring the best possible staff. The family carefully screens applicants for both front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house positions.
5. Critics from The New York Times gave the restaurant a rave review. Citing its authentic cuisine and outstanding service.
MISSING SUBJECTS AND VERBS
A missing subject, somewhat rare in American English, is often rather simple to identify. Remember the plate with the missing protein at the beginning of this chapter? Clearly, if the protein is missing, the plate can be "fixed" by adding it. The same is true of the following sentence:
Served a plate of lamb chops.
The missing subject--who served the lamb chops--tends to catch our attention, so this type of sentence fragment is less likely to be missed in editing the final draft. The corrected sentence might read as follows: "The waiter served a plate of lamb chops."
Far less clear is the sentence that is missing a verb, particularly a linking verb such as is or are. Look at the following example:
The plate of slightly rare frenched lamb chops ready to be served.
We seem to have all the information, from a description of what's on the plate to the information that it's ready to be served. What we don't have is the tiny structural essential: the verb. We can fix the sentence by adding one:
The plate of slightly rare frenched lamb chops is ready to be served.
Another common type of sentence fragment omits the helping verb, as in the following example:
Semi-sweet chocolate chips stirred into the buttery cookie dough.
We can fix this sentence by adding a helping verb:
Semi-sweet chocolate chips were stirred into the buttery cookie dough.
Finally, both the subject and verb may be missing: "Semi-sweet chocolate chips into the buttery cookie dough." We can fix this sentence by adding the missing ingredients:
Daniel mixed semi-sweet chocolate chips into the buttery cookie dough.
The key to identifying any fragment is to keep in mind our work from Chapter 21 on finding the subject and verb. Remember to distinguish verbs from verbals and to check for missing linking verbs.
Exercise 22.3 | Fixing Sentences That Are Missing a Subject and/or Verb
Read each "sentence" carefully, from the capital letter to the period. Identify any sentence fragments, and fix them by adding the missing ingredients.
Example: F Wilted, discolored lettuce [is] inappropriate for a salad plate.
1. The delicious, fresh salad including tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta cheese.
2. Some of the salads sprinkled with pine nuts or sugared pecans.
3. Other salads on the menu contained chunks of warm goat cheese.
4. Ordered a salad with a mix of roasted peppers and sun-dried tomatoes.
5. Mixed greens drizzled with raspberry vinaigrette.
SUBORDINATE CLAUSE FRAGMENTS
Remember that a clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb. An independent clause equals a complete sentence. A dependent or subordinate clause, however, cannot stand alone. Let's look again at an earlier example:
Although the pork was a bit tough. It had an excellent flavor.
The sentence fragment Although the pork was a bit tough is a subordinate or dependent clause. It cannot stand on its own because it lacks a complete thought or, as we said earlier, an independent structure. Because it contains a subordinating conjunction or "coat hanger," it must be attached to a main or independent clause, or it will fall. See Figure 22.1 for a list of common subordinating conjunctions.
Figure 22.1 Common Subordinating Conjunctions after although as as if because before even though if in order that once since so that though unless until when whenever where wherever whether while Copyright [c] 2015 Cengage Learning[c].
We remember that the formula for a complete sentence is as follows:
subject + verb + stand-alone idea = complete sentence
The formula for a subordinate clause fragment looks like this:
subordinating + subject + verb = sentence fragment conjunction Although the pork was (a sentence fragment bit tough)
Note that a sentence that begins with a coordinating conjunction, such as and, but, or yet, is not a fragment. The coordinating conjunction does not affect the structure of the clause in the way that a subordinating conjunction does (see Chapter 23 for more details).
Subordinate clause fragments can be corrected in a number of ways. First, they can be fixed by removing the subordinating conjunction, which in our example is the word Although. The sentence would become simply this:
The pork was a bit tough.
Subordinate fragments may also be fixed by adding an appropriate main or independent clause to complete the thought:
Although the pork was a bit tough, the rice pilaf was delicious.
Perhaps most often in our own writing, however, the subordinate clause fragment lies next to a main clause already, and we have simply neglected to connect the two.
Although the pork was a bit tough. It had an excellent flavor.
Here we must be careful to remove the period, replace it with a comma, and lowercase the I in it.
Although the pork was a bit tough, it had an excellent flavor.
Remember that these types of fragments are often difficult to recognize because they contain a subject and a verb and because they so often lie next to the independent clause they are meant to "depend" on. Therefore, as you're editing your papers, read only one sentence at a time, from the capital letter to the period, and be especially careful of sentences that begin with one of the common subordinating conjunctions.
Exercise 22.4 | Fixing Subordinate Clause Fragments
Read each "sentence" carefully, from the capital letter to the period. Identify any subordinate clause fragments, and fix them by joining them to a main clause or by removing the subordinating conjunction. Adjust the capitalization as needed.
-- 1. Mature human brains weigh almost three pounds. Archeological evidence suggests they were bigger five thousand years ago.
-- 2. While some scientists have compared the brain's texture to toothpaste. Others suggest tofu is a more accurate parallel.
-- 3. The brain continues to grow until age twenty-five. When the prefrontal cortex reaches maturity.
-- 4. Because this part of the brain controls risk assessment and decision-making. It may explain some of adolescents' volatile behavior.
-- 5. According to neuroscientists, male and female brains process pain and stress differently. Although there is no difference in areas like math ability.
RELATIVE CLAUSE FRAGMENTS
Another type of subordinate clause, which becomes a fragment if it is not connected to a main clause, is formed with relative pronouns, words that "relate" one part of the sentence to a word or phrase in an earlier part. The relative pronouns include that, which, whichever, who, whoever, whom, and whomever. For example, in the sentence "The sled dogs have to be in top condition in order to compete in the Iditarod, which covers over one thousand miles," the relative pronoun which refers to the noun Iditarod. Like a subordinating conjunction, the relative pronoun joins a subordinate or dependent clause to an independent one. Relative Clause fragments have a slightly different formula from the subordinate clause fragments discussed earlier. Sometimes the relative pronoun acts as the subject of its own clause:
relative pronoun as subject + verb = sentence fragment
Who won the chili competition.
Who (relative pronoun) + won (verb) + period = sentence fragment
Notice that if this clause ended with a question mark instead of a period, who would be an interrogative rather than a relative pronoun, and the sentence would be correct. However, since it ends with a period, it is a fragment. This type of relative clause fragment, in which the relative pronoun is both the subordinating conjunction and the subject of the clause, can be fixed in several different ways. First, as with all subordinate clause fragments, a main clause may be added:
I know the students who won the chili competition.
Second, the subordinate clause fragment may lie next to a main clause:
The biggest fans of hot pepper were Carlos and Cecilia. Who won the chili competition.
This fragment may be fixed by removing the period, adding a comma, and making the W lower case:
The biggest fans of hot pepper were Carlos and Cecilia, who won the chili competition.
A final option is to replace the relative pronoun with a noun or personal pronoun:
Who won the chili competition. [incorrect]
Carlos and Cecilia won the chili competition. [correct]
They won the chili competition. [correct]
Remember that when a sentence starts with Who or Which and ends with a question mark, it's okay. However, if such a sentence ends with a period, it's a fragment.
A relative pronoun may also be used as the object of a verb or preposition, as in these sentence fragments:
Which they put into their award-winning chili. In which they entered their famous Red-Hot Chili.
In the first example, Which is used as the object of the verb put. In the second, which is used as the object of the preposition In. Like other relative fragments, these two examples can be fixed by joining each to an independent clause, as follows:
Carlos and Cecilia bought fresh jalapeno peppers, which they put into their award-winning chili.
Carlos and Cecilia won the competition, in which they entered their famous Red-Hot Chili.
Look closely at any sentence that begins with Which or In which.
Finally, a fragment may contain an embedded relative clause attached to a noun. These groups of words rename or describe a noun or pronoun and may look like the following:
An actor who has won Emmys for both comedic and dramatic roles.
This fragment contains the dependent clause who has won Emmys for both comedic and dramatic roles, in which the subject is who and the verb is has won. It also seems to contain another subject, actor. However, there is no verb that pairs with actor, and the fragment cannot stand alone. What about that actor? To fix this type of fragment, we might delete or change some of the words to make a complete sentence:
An actor has won Emmys for both comedic and dramatic roles.
Or we might add some words:
He is an actor who has won Emmys for both comedic and dramatic roles.
In our own writing, such a fragment most likely lies next to a main clause, and, just as we did with the subordinate clause fragments earlier, we need to join the two by removing the period and changing capital letters when necessary.
Breaking Bad's meth-making chemistry teacher is played by Bryan Cranston. An actor who has won Emmys for both comedic and dramatic roles. [incorrect] Breaking Bad's meth-making chemistry teacher is played by Bryan Cranston, an actor who has won Emmys for both comedic and dramatic roles. [correct]
Exercise 22.5 | Relative Clause Fragments
Read each "sentence" carefully, from the capital letter to the period. Identify any relative clause fragments, and fix them by joining each to a main clause or by replacing the relative pronoun. Adjust the capitalization as needed.
-- 1. The students tasted a variety of chocolates. Which ranged from a light, milky chocolate to a complex, bitter dark chocolate.
-- 2. Some of the chocolates were made in the United States. Others had been imported from Belgium, Venezuela, and Madagascar.
-- 3. One of the class favorites was a milk chocolate from France. That held hints of vanilla and caramel.
-- 4. The 33% cacao in the French chocolate gave it a much richer flavor than that of many popular American chocolates. In which there may be only 11% cacao.
-- 5. Bacon was the surprise ingredient in a dark chocolate designed by an American chocolatier. A woman who had not only studied in France but traveled widely across Southeast Asia.
RECIPE FOR REVIEW
IDENTIFYING SENTENCE FRAGMENTS
* To be complete, the sentence must contain a subject, a verb, and a stand-alone idea. A sentence fragment is missing one or more of these ingredients.
* Read each sentence carefully, from the capital letter to the period, and look for the three essential ingredients. Once you have identified a sentence fragment, then decide whether to correct it by adding or deleting words, or by connecting the fragment to an independent or main clause before or after it.
SUBORDINATE CLAUSE FRAGMENTS
Subordinate clause fragments begin with a subordinating conjunction ("coat hanger") and are followed by a subject and verb. Because a subordinate clause fragment cannot stand alone, it must be joined to an independent clause, or the subordinating conjunction must be removed.
Relative clause fragments consist of a relative pronoun used as the subject or object. A relative clause fragment can be fixed by joining it to the preceding sentence or by changing the relative pronoun to a personal one. Especially confusing are fragments in which a noun is followed by a dependent or subordinate clause (containing its own subject and verb) but has no verb of its own.
FIXING SENTENCE FRAGMENTS
To check that a sentence is complete, read it aloud to see if it sounds unfinished. Pay special attention to sentences that begin with subordinating conjunctions ("coat hangers") and relative pronouns.
Use the following process to identify sentence fragments.
1. Is there a subject?
If NO, it's a fragment. Add a subject. Then go to step 2.
If YES, go to step 2.
2. Is there a verb?
If NO, it's a fragment. Add a verb. Then go to step 3.
If YES, go to step 3.
3. Does the sentence begin with a coat hanger or a relative pronoun?
If NO, the sentence is most likely correct. Move to next sentence.
If YES, it's a fragment.
Correct the fragment in ONE of the following ways: (1) dropping the coat hanger, (2) changing the relative pronoun to a personal pronoun, (3) adding a main clause, or (4) joining the fragment to an adjacent sentence.
DIRECTIONS: PART I. Read each "sentence" carefully, from the capital letter to the period. Identify any fragments, and fix them by changing, adding, or deleting words, or by joining them to the sentence before or after. Adjust the capitalization as needed.
-- 1. Law & Order is a crime show franchise that has seen many spin-offs over the years, including the popular Law & Order: SVU.
-- 2. Richard Belzer reprises the role of Detective John Munch, who first appeared in the series Homicide: Life on the Street. Which was set in Baltimore.
-- 3. One of the most popular stars of the show is Mariska Hargitay. Who plays Detective Olivia Benson.
-- 4. Hargitay speaks a number of other languages in addition to English. Including French, Spanish, and Hungarian.
-- 5. Hargitay takes her role seriously. And has even founded a charitable organization to help survivors of abuse and assault.
-- 6. Benson's partner Elliot Stabler, played by Christopher Meloni.
-- 7. Stabler frequently losing his temper when confronted by the perpetrators of crimes against children.
-- 8. Although Benson and Stabler have very different personalities. They seem to work well as a team.
-- 9. In fact, apparently mismatched characters that work well together quite common on television and in the movies.
-- 10. Written over one hundred years ago. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories about polar opposites Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson have been recently re-told in both films and television series.
DIRECTIONS: PART II. Identify the five sentence fragments in the following passage. Then fix them by changing, adding, or deleting words, or by connecting the fragment to the sentence before or after.
"Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up" is an episode of the classic television series The Twilight Zone. It's a dark, snowy night, and two state troopers are following up on a call that a UFO has landed in the woods. They find footprints leading from the presumed crash site towards the lights of a diner glimpsed through the trees.
The diner setting seems comfortable, safe, ordinary. A man in a white cap behind the counter serving up cups of coffee. Small tables are scattered casually around the dining area, and a jukebox plays light and cheerful music. Gentle landscape paintings share wall space with special menu items. A bus driver and his passengers enjoy the diner's relaxed mood. But when the troopers enter with news of a bridge that's closed and mysterious footprints in the snow. The music takes on an ominous note. The customers look nervously at each other. Wondering if one of them is an alien. The driver remembers only six passengers on the bus, but there are now seven in the diner.
The atmosphere becomes downright spooky when the lights turn themselves off and on, and the jukebox suddenly plays a new tune. Although no one has touched it. Most unsettling of all, the sugar bowls burst open right in front of the terrified customers. Like the characters in other episodes of The Twilight Zone. The diner's inhabitants find the world that looked so ordinary has been turned upside down.
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|Title Annotation:||UNIT 3: PRESENTATION|
|Author:||Cadbury, Vivian C.|
|Publication:||A Taste for Writing, Composition for Culinarians|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2015|
|Previous Article:||Chapter 21: Understanding sentence basics.|
|Next Article:||Chapter 23: Run-on sentences and comma splices.|