As people use technology more and more in their everyday lives, it’s becoming common to write and speak in fragmented and run-on sentences. Just think about the last batch of text messages or emails you wrote, or the last social media post you readWhat Is a Sentence Fragment?
Sentence fragments are grammatically incorrect because they are incomplete. They are usually missing a subject, object, or verb, or they don’t express a complete thought on their own. But sentence fragments are used all the time in writing and speech so it’s easy to miss them or mistake them as being grammatically correct. Consider the following passages:
- Looking forward to seeing you at tomorrow night’s gala.
- Be sure to keep our customers satisfied. No matter what.
- There are some documents that still need to be signed. The client agreement. And the manufacturer’s agreement.
Sentence fragments are used in everyday speech, especially during brief exchanges of dialogue. In fact, sometimes people seem stuffy or odd if they don’t use sentence fragments when interacting with others. For example, if someone asked you in an email, “Did Sue ever get back to you about tomorrow’s meeting?”, it would be perfectly okay to respond with, “Still waiting for her reply.”, although that reply is technically a sentence fragment. Many writers use sentence fragments for stylistic reasons to emphasize certain ideas, phrases or passages. Consider the following example:
Once Maria learned that the vaccine that she was using was causing unforeseen and fatal illnesses, she threw every vial she had of it away. Every single one. And never used or spoke of it again.
What Is a Run-On Sentence?
A run-on sentence usually occurs when two separate sentences or clauses are improperly combined. However, unlike sentence fragments, run-on sentences can still be technically grammatically correct. Consider the following examples:
- I enjoy dancing on the weekends, I go to the cocktail lounge downtown on Main Street.
- Students are required to take and pass entrance exams to be accepted and are required to write personal essays and receive rewards and accommodations and need multiple letters of recommendation.
While the second passage above is wordy and long, it’s not technically incorrect. But the first passage above is grammatically incorrect because its two clauses aren’t properly combined or separated. Writers sometimes choose to revise run-on sentences to make passages easier to read and understand, not necessarily because they’re grammatically incorrect. Cormac McCarthy, for example, is well-known for his use of run-on sentences that span multiple pages but are still grammatically correct due to their inclusion of conjunctions.
How to Repair Sentence Fragments and Run-On Sentences
Unfortunately, grammar checking software doesn’t always highlight sentence fragments or run-on sentences, so you can’t rely on it to offer options for repairing them. Below are a few tips regarding how you can repair sentence fragments and run-on sentences.
1. Add the missing subject or verb to a sentence fragment to form a complete sentence.
Revising a sentence fragment to form a complete sentence can often be as easy as adding a missing element to it. Let’s use the example sentence fragment above: “Looking forward to seeing you at tomorrow night’s gala.” All you need to do is add the subject to the sentence and revise the verb being used to make it a complete sentence: “I look forward to seeing you at tomorrow night’s gala.”
2. Combine one sentence fragment with another sentence fragment to form a complete sentence.
Combining multiple sentence fragments together to form one complete sentence can work well, if you’re careful not to create a run-on sentence instead. For example, instead of the passage “There are some documents that still need to be signed. The client agreement. And the manufacturer’s agreement.”, you could write, “The client agreement and manufacturer’s agreement documents still need to be signed.”
3. Attach a sentence fragment to another sentence or sentence fragment via punctuation to form a complete sentence.
This is probably one of the more common ways to repair a sentence fragment. For example, you could write “No matter what happens, be sure to keep our customers satisfied.”, instead of “Be sure to keep our customers satisfied. No matter what.”
4. Turn separate clauses in run-on sentences into separate and complete sentences.
Typically, run-on sentences are easily repaired by separating independent clauses into separate sentences. For example, instead of writing “The results of the study were inconclusive, therefore more research needs to be done on the topic.”, you would want to write two separate sentences: “The results of the study were inconclusive. Therefore, more research needs to be done on the topic.”
5. Use a period or a semicolon instead of a comma to repair run-on sentences.
Often writers will attempt to combine two separate and grammatically correct sentences with commas when a period or semicolon is needed instead. Let’s use the example above: “I enjoy dancing on the weekends, I go to the cocktail lounge downtown on Main Street.” This run-on sentence can be repaired with the proper punctuation: “I enjoy dancing on the weekends. I go to the cocktail lounge downtown on Main Street.”
For another example, consider this passage: “There are many places I want to travel to within the next five years, for example, Greece and Venice and Paris.”, which can be repaired with a semicolon: “There are many places I want to travel to within the next five years; for example, I’d like to travel to Greece, Venice and Paris.”
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