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Run-on Sentences and Sentence Fragments 1

An incomplete sentence (or sentence fragment) is a group of words that has been written as if it were a complete sentence, but that, as a matter of grammatical correctness, needs something else to make it complete. If you write “And in the morning” and put a period after what you have written, the sentence has been left incomplete. It’s a sentence fragment, not a complete sentence. Your reader will be left wondering “And in the morning, what?” Similarly, the group of words “When the meeting ends” cannot form a complete sentence on its own; grammatically, it is structured as a dependent (or subordinate) clause. Like independent clauses, dependent clauses—also known as “subordinate clauses”—include both a subject and a verb. Unlike independent clauses, though, they begin with a subordinating word (words such as because, so, although, and when may be used as conjunctions in this way, as can relative pronouns such as thatwhich, and whose). To turn a subordinate clause into a complete sentence, one can either transform it into an independent clause (“The meeting will end tomorrow”) or attach it to a separate, independent clause (“When the meeting ends tomorrow, we should have a comprehensive agreement”).

Focusing on the word “fragment,” some people imagine incomplete sentences to be always very short. That’s not the case. Whether a sentence is complete or not is a matter of grammatical correctness, not of sentence length. For example, the short group of words “Marina walked to the sea” can form a complete sentence, but this much longer group of words is a sentence fragment: “While Marina was walking to the sea and thinking of her father and the sound of a woodthrush.”

More on sentence fragments and run-on sentences may be found in The Broadview Guide to Writing under “Punctuation: The Period,” and in The Broadview Pocket Guide to Writing under “Run-On Sentences.” If you are unclear on the meanings of subject and predicateclause and phrase, or main clause and subordinate clause, see “Parts of Sentences” in “Basic Grammar: An Outline” (included in both the full Broadview Guide to Writing and The Broadview Pocket Guide to Writing).

Analyze and identify the sentence status of each of the following examples.