Incomplete sentences are called fragments. They are parts of sentences that have become disconnected from the main clause. Fragments are mostly a clause which is dependent or a long phrase that follows the main clause. When a series of words is put with a capital at the beginning of the sentence and at the end there is a punctuation mark, then it may look like a sentence. Yet for a sentence to be truly complete, it must contain an independent clause. That independent clause tells whole story even when isolated from its context. A sentence fragment is a clause that does not qualify as a sentence. The reason is that a sentence fragment misses one of the three vital elements. Those vital elements are a complete thought, a verb and a subject. A complete thought means that the sentence should have details of the context so that it can be easily understood by the reader. It should be a meaningful sentence. Verb is a word used to describe an action, state or occurrence. Verb forms the main part of a sentence or phrase. It describes what the subject is doing. Verbs almost always comes after a noun or a pronoun. These nouns or pronouns are referred to as the subject.
Fragment Sentence – I need to find a new roommate. Because the one I have now is not working out too well.
Corrected Sentence – I need to find a new roommate because the one I have now is not working out too well.
Fragment Sentence – The current city policy on housing is incomplete as it stands. Which is why we believe the proposed amendments should be passed.
Corrected Sentence – Because the current city policy on housing is incomplete as it stands, we believe the proposed amendments should be passed.
Examples where main verb is missing
Direct object – She told a story with deep thoughts and emotions
Appositive – Gilaman’s “ The Yellow Wallpaper,” a story with deep thoughts and emotions, has impressed critics for decades.
Complete verb – Toys of all kinds were thrown everywhere.
Direct object – They found toys of all kinds thrown everywhere.
Direct object – I have noticed a record of accomplishment beginning when you were first hired.
Main verb - A record of accomplishment began when you were first hired.
Examples where subject is missing.
Remove preposition - The ultimate effect of all advertising is to sell the product.
Remove preposition - Paying too much attention to polls can make a political leader unwilling to propose innovative policies.
Remove preposition - Doing freelance work for a competitor got Phil fired.
Rearrange - Phil got fired for doing freelance work for a competitor.
These examples of fragments with subject being absent are also known as mixed constructions. That is these sentences are constructed out of mixed parts. They often start one way but end with a regular predicate. They often start with a long prepositional phrase. Often the object of the preposition is intended as the subject of the sentence. So removing the preposition at the beginning is usually the easiest way to edit such errors. In the last two examples it is the gerund.
Few other examples
Fragment Sentence – Because of the rain.
On its own, because of the rain do not form a complete thought. It leaves us wondering what happened because of rain. To complete it, we need further explanation :
Because of the rain, the party was canceled.
Now the fragment has become a dependent clause attached to a sentence that has subject (the party) and a verb (was canceled). Our thought is complete. In this example, making the sentence longer was the solution. But that does not mean that short sentences can not be complete.
Example – I ran.
I ran may be a short thought, but it has subject (I) and a verb, that is ran. Nothing in the sentence demands further explanation.
Avoiding sentence fragments not only makes one writing easier to read, but it can also make sound more polished in polite correspondence. We have all had emails ending with:
Example - Looking forward to seeing you.
That sentence lacks a subject. Adding a subject will build a stronger, more confident – sounding sentence :
Example - I am looking forward to seeing you.
There is a small psychological difference. But when one is corresponding in a formal setting, it is vital to take care in writing complete sentences. Fragments can sound as if they are carelessly blurted out.
Fixing a sentence fragment involves one of the two things. One giving it the components it lacks. Two fastening it into an independent clause.
Example – There are many ways to frighten little brothers. For example, by hiding under their beds and waiting for dark.
The second statement is not a complete sentence. It is void of subject. But by hiding under their beds and waiting for dark is a prepositional phrase, and not a verb. There are two methods to fix this sentence. The first will be to compile it into the complete sentence before it. For connecting dependent clauses semicolons can be used.
There are many ways to frighten little brothers; for example, by hiding under their beds and waiting for dark. This sentence may seem a bit formal. So one can change the fragment with a subject (you) and verbs for the subject to act on. There are many ways to frighten little brothers. For example, you can hide under their beds and wait for dark.
One should avoid sentence fragments in formal situations and academic writing. The reason is, a fragment within a clear context can sometimes serve as a valid dramatic purpose. Fiction writers, journalists and bloggers often use them. For example - No one thought that Ethan could make the jump; it was just too high. All the same, he was determined to astound us. No matter what. And he did. Here no mater what is a sentence fragment. More over the sentence begins with a conjunction. If one is telling a story, a few fragments may suit the purpose as well as the style. But when writing an essay or drafting a business document, it is best to avoid sentence fragments. It is fine to use in informal writing and conversations, but must be avoided when writing a formal letter or having a formal conversation.
Participle phrase is a modifier. Participle phrases can not stand – alone as they lack a subject and a verb. Participle phrases need to modify a noun. Participle phrases need to be a part of an independent clause. Example – Lost in the woods. The correct sentence can be - Lost in the woods, the dog could not find its owner. Example – Eating the entire bowl of ice cream.
The correct sentence can be - I was so annoyed with my sister,eating the entire bowl of ice cream. Infinitive phrases starts with an infinitive and ends with other words. Infinitive phrases acts as adverbs, adjectives or nouns. But Infinitive phrases alone are not complete sentences as they lack the elements to make an independent clause. Example -To cook dinner. The correct sentence can be - I was preparing to cook dinner. Example - To respond to your mother in a rude tone. The correct sentence can be - To respond to your mother in a rude tone is disrespectful. A verb phrase contains the verb and any direct or indirect object. A verb phrase may look like it can stand alone, but a verb phrase lacks a subject to make an independent clause. Example - Makes a good impression. The correct sentence can be - He makes a good impression. Example - Built a sand castle for her. The correct sentence can be - Grandfather built a sand castle for her. An appositive is a noun that renames or re – identifies another noun. An appositive can rename subjects but they are not subjects themselves. An appositive does not contain verbs, either, and hence can not stand alone as a complete thought. Example - The one with the wagging tail. The correct sentence can be – I like that dog - the one with the wagging tail. Example - My favorite person. The correct sentence can be – Joe, my favorite -person, is visiting me this weekend. Misplaced periods – Example - I think I will make a pie. Later on tonight. The correct sentence can be - I think I will make a pie later on tonight.
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