Grammar: Sentence fragments

Table of contents

What are the grammar rules?

NOTE: Sentence fragments are only an error in writing.

1. A sentence fragment is a group of words that looks like a sentence because it starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop / period.

Here’s an example:

For example, participants who were in the control group.

2. However, to be a sentence, there needs to be at least one independent clause.

IncorrectCorrect
For example, participants who were in the control group.– For example, participants who were in the control group were not required to complete the second questionnaire.

3. The most common type of sentence fragment is a dependent clause fragment. This is a group of words that does not express a complete thought because it contains a subordinating conjunction: when, after, although, if, because, until, whereas, etc. The reader is left waiting for the rest of the thought.

Here are some examples:

Before the participants arrived.
Although conscientiousness appears to be related to intention to quit.

To fix a dependent clause fragment, you generally have to combine it with the independent clause immediately before or after it.

IncorrectCorrect
Before the participants arrived. The researcher allocated them to groups.– Before the participants arrived, the researcher allocated them to groups.

OR

– The researcher allocated the participants to groups before they arrived.
Although conscientiousness appears to be related to intention to quit. More research is needed.– Although conscientiousness appears to be related to intention to quit, more research is needed.

4. Another common type of sentence fragment is the afterthought fragment, which occurs when the writer adds extra information connected to the previous clause.

Here are some examples:

Unemployment can cause a range of problems. Especially financial hardship.
The participants were from a range of countries. Including China, Spain and Romania.

Afterthought fragments can usually be fixed by joining the fragment to the independent clause before it, usually with a comma.

IncorrectCorrect
Unemployment can cause a range of problems. Especially financial hardship.– Unemployment can cause a range of problems, especially financial hardship.
The participants were from a range of countries. Including China, Spain and Romania.– The participants were from a range of countries, including China, Spain and Romania.

5. A final common type of sentence fragment is the appositive fragment. This occurs when extra information given about a noun makes it appear that a complete sentence has been written. It can be confusing because there is a verb in the sentence, but it is not the main verb; it is part of a relative clause.

Here are some examples:

The participants who arrived at the researcher’s lab early.
The social issues identified, which included unemployment, homelessness, and discrimination.

Appositive fragments can be fixed by adding a main verb.

IncorrectCorrect
The participants who arrived at the researcher’s lab early.– The participants who arrived at the researcher’s lab early were able to finish on time.
The social issues identified, which included unemployment, homelessness, and discrimination.– The social issues identified, which included unemployment, homelessness, and discrimination, need to be addressed.

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