In some situations a noise or gesture willl communicate. For instance, if you hear a shriek and glance out the window to see your neighbor holding a hammer in one hand while waving the other as if it were aflame, you would probably conclude that he had smashed a finger. Individual words also can communicate effectively. When you hear someone shout "stop," "run," or "fire," you react, for not to react might be foolhardy. But in more complex situations, only sentences can effectively communicate. Like all languages, English has developed sentence conventions that help writers and speakers convey meaning correctly and accurately. While you will never be evaluated on how well you express the pain of a smashed finger or on how well you shout a warning, you will be evaluated as a college student and later on as a college graduate, on how correctly and accurately you shape sentences. This section concentrates on common sentence errors and on ways to avoid those errors so that you can use sentences effectively.
To stand as a main clause, a complete sentence must have a subject and a predicate and not be introduced by a subordinating conjunction or a relative pronoun.
A sentence fragment is a portion of a sentence punctuated as though it were a complete sentence. Sentence fragments are usually serious errors in writing. Except for a few situations, which are noted below, their use indicates that the writher lacks an understanding of the basic principles of sentence structure and is not fully in control of his or her writing. You can learn to avoid most sentence fragments by heeding the following guidelines.
a group of words introduced by a subordinating conjunction (such as when, while, although, because, if, until) or by a relative pronoun (such as who, which, that) functions as a dependent clause. Although dependent clauses have subjects and verbs, they cannot stand alone as main clauses. You can correct such fragments by attaching the dependent clause to a main clause or by rewriting the dependent clause as a complete sentence. (See subordinating conjunctions, relative pronouns.)
Ingrid won one thousand dollars on a quiz show. Because she knew that shoelaces had not been invented until the eighteenth century. [Fragment.]
Ingrid won one thousand dollars on a quiz show because she knew that shoelaces had not been invented untio the eighteenth century. [corrected.]
John Steinbeck was a Nobel Prize-winning novelist. Who wrote about the difficult life of migrant farm workers inCalifornia. [Fragment.]
Jouh Steinbeck was a Nobel Prize-winning novelist who wrote about the difficult life of migrant farm workers in California. [Corrected as one sentence with a main clause and a dependent clause.]
John Steinbeck was a Nobel Prize-winning novelist. He wrote about the difficult life of migrant farm workers in California. [Corrected as two complete sentences.]
Like a dependent clause, a phrase is only part of a sentence and cannot stand alone. Phrase fragments can be corrected by joining them to main clauses or by rewriting them as complete sentences.
The group wanted to protest the draft laws. And to support a nuclear freeze. [Infinitive phrase fragment.]
The group wanted to protest the draft laws and to support a nuclear freeze. [Corrected.]
The group traveled by bus for three days. Finally arriving on Friday. [Participial phrase fragment.]
The group traveled by bus for three days, finally arriving on Friday. [Corrected as one sentence.]
The group traveled by bus for three days. They finally arrived on Friday. [Corrected as two sentences.]
Geoffrey worked on his novel. In a tiny cabin on the far corner of his property. [Preposotional fphrase fragment.]
Geoffrey worked on his novel in a tiny cabin on the far corner of his property. [Corrected as one sentence.]
One of the century's great medical discoveries is penicillin. A miracle dryg that has saved millions of lives. [Appositive phrase fragment.]
One of the century's great medical discoveries is penicillin, a miracle drus that has saved millions of lives. [Corrected as one sentence.]
(See predicate, unnecessary commas.)
The campaign committee wrote several hundred letters. And made countless phone calls. [Fragment: part of compound predicast.]
The campaign committee wrote several hundred letters, and made countless phone calls. [Still incorrect; compound predicate punctuated as two main clauses.]
Use fragments such as the following sparingly and only when your purpose is clear.
|Two on Trial for Robbery|
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
|What's next? Another term paper. Holy Cow!|
EXCLAMATIONS IN DIALOGUE
|I've been patient, understanding, attentive, and gentle.
Now it's over. No more Mr. Nice Guy!
|My final point.|
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