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Fragments & Run-ons Mr. O’Connor With special guest speaker Kevin Garnett
Sentence combining --- avoiding run-ons and fragments
Sentences in English are traditionally described as simple, compound, complex , or compound-complex .
A 'run-on' error occurs in a compound or compound-complex sentence that is not properly connected.
A fragment is a word-group that is not a sentence because it does not contain at least one independent clause.
Clearly, in order to understand what the 'Run-on' and 'fragment' errors are, we first need to know what factors make a sentence, whether simple, compound, complex, or compound-complex, really a sentence.
A simple sentence has one independent clause that contains one subject and at least one verb. (Note that a clause is a group of related words containing a subject and a verb. It differs from a phrase in that a phrase does not include a subject and verb relationship.)
A compound sentence has two or more independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).
A complex sentence has one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses.
A complex-compound sentence has at least two independent clauses and at least one dependent clause.
A simple sentence has a single subject-verb combination. Thus, it has only one idea, or thought.
1. Birds fly.
2. The meeting started early.
3. Water has been contaminated by the sewage system.
A simple sentence may have more than one subject.
1. Mary and Sam went home.
2. Sand and dust covered my clothes.
(1) The Simple Sentence
A simple sentence may have more than one verb.
1. The boys played and won the game.
2. The machine belched smoke and stopped.
Clearly, a simple sentence may have several subjects and verbs, as in the following sentence, for example:
Joe, Sally, and Peter cleaned the carpet, washed the windows, and changed the curtains.
(2) The Compound Sentence
A compound sentence combines two simple sentences.
1. Birds fly, but fish swim.
2. The meeting started early, so we were late.
3. Water has been contaminated, for the sewage system broke down.
Clearly, such a sentence carries more than one idea. Note that each of these examples has two subjects, two verbs and two ideas.
(2) The Compound Sentence
Two simple sentences should be combined correctly in order to write a compound sentence
Example: Mary wanted to go shopping, but Ron wanted to watch the game.
* A compound sentence is often prone to the run-on error.
(3) The Complex Sentence
The complex sentence has a simple sentence and a statement that begins with a dependent word.
Example: I failed the final exam because I did not answer all the questions.
A complex sentence can also start with a dependent word statement followed by a simple sentence.
(3) The Complex Sentence
Example: Because I did not answer all the questions, I failed the final exam.
In this second example here, 'because' is called a dependent word. The first part of this sentence is not complete in its meaning and is called a fragment. For instance, if you were to present it as a sentence,
Because I did not answer all the questions
it would be an incomplete thought, and will be called a fragment, because you need the second part (", I failed the final exam") to complete the thought.
(4) The Compound-Complex Sentence
The compound-complex sentence has both, compound as well as complex, sentences.
Example: I finished my household chores, so I decided to do some shopping although I did not have any money.
Note that the first part here ("I finished ... some shopping") is a compound sentence.
In constructing compound-complex sentences, therefore, we need to guard against both run-ons as well as fragments.
What is a 'Run-on'?
In Run-on sentences, the ideas run together, without any correct punctuation marks connecting them.
Example of a 'Run-on' sentence:
Mary wanted to go shopping Ron wanted to watch the game.
The correct form of this sentence is:
Mary wanted to go shopping, but Ron wanted to watch the game.
Try this quiz on identifying run-ons: Which of these sentences have 'Run-on' errors?
1. Tom and Gloria went to the movie, but the tickets were sold out.
2. The alarm sounded Gloria woke up.
3. The game stopped, for the rain came.
4. The meeting was over; therefore, we went home.
Run-ons reveal fused sentences. The following methods are commonly used to correct them.
Method 1: Period and a Capital Letter
Break the two complete thoughts into two separate sentences by putting a period at the end of the first thought, to form a complete sentence, and then a capital letter to begin the second thought as a separate sentence.
Method 2: Comma and a Joining Word
Use a comma and a joining word to connect the two complete thoughts.
Common joining words: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so
Method 3: Semicolon
Use a semicolon to mark the break between two thoughts.
Example: The restaurant was beautiful the food was overpriced.
Method 4: Subordination
This method of joining related thoughts uses subordination, by showing that one thought in a sentence is not as important as the other thought.
Example: Although my grades are very good this year. My social life rates only a C.
The first word-group is clearly a fragment, and not a complete sentence. Following is one way to construct a single sentence by combining the two:
Although my grades are very good this year, my social life rates only a C.
What is a fragment?
A complete sentence must have a subject and a verb and must express a complete thought. Therefore, a fragment is a word group that lacks a subject or a verb, and fails to express a complete thought.
Clearly, in order to avoid the 'fragment' errors in your writing, you need to learn to write the complex sentences correctly.
How to Avoid Fragments
1. Make sure every sentence has a subject and a verb.
Crystal works at the nursing home.
2. Do not mistake a verbal* for the verb of the subject.
Wondering about his future (This is a fragment.)
My brother is wondering about his future. (This is a complete sentence.)
3. Make sure every sentence has at least one independent clause (An independent clause has a subject and a verb and can stand alone as a complete sentence.)
Because she prepared for her test (This is a dependent clause.)
Because she prepared for her test, she got an A. (This is an independent clause.)
* Non-finite verbs (think "unfinished") cannot, by themselves, be main verbs: