A sentence fragment is a group of words that resembles a sentence. It will start with a capital letter and have ending punctuation; however, it is neither an independent clause nor a complete idea.
A sentence fragment can be very confusing for the reader, so usually, the best thing to do is to fix it by adding what is missing from the sentence or joining it to another sentence. Below see some sentence fragment examples and possible corrections, plus examples of how powerful an intentional use of fragments can be.
Sentence Fragments Without a Subject
Some sentence fragments lack a subject.
Here are 5 examples of sentence fragments along with a possible revision that includes a subject:
- Shows no improvement in your efficiency.
Revision: The evaluation shows no improvement in your efficiency.
- Slammed the door and left.
Revision: Sarah slammed the door and left.
- Running down the lane and into the forest.
Revision: The moose was running down the lane and into the forest.
- Discovered the cure for the disease.
Revision: The researcher discovered the cure for the disease.
- Gave many reasons but no logical ones.
Revision: Our boss gave many reasons but no logical ones.
Sentence Fragments Without a Verb
Some sentence fragments have a subject but no verb.
Here are fragment examples along with a possible revision including the verb:
- A time of wonder and amazement.
Revision: That was a time of wonder and amazement.
- Clothes and shoes scattered around the room.
Revision: Clothes and shoes were scattered around the room.
- The elected official for our district.
Revision: The elected official for our district was unpopular.
- The answer to our prayers.
Revision: This inheritance is the answer to our prayers.
- Showing her award and gloating.
Revision: Terri was showing her award and gloating.
Sentence Fragments that Are Dependent Clauses
Some sentence fragments are dependent clauses that cannot stand alone.
Here are examples along with a possible revision to make it a complete sentence:
- Because it was raining.
Revision: We canceled the picnic because it was raining.
- After I finish the project.
Revision: I will get a bonus after I finish the project.
- Since she never saw that movie.
Revision: We should invite her since she never saw that movie.
- Such as drama, music, and dance.
Revision: I like the arts, such as drama, music, and dance.
- To explain why that happened.
Revision: He neglected to explain why that happened.
- Worrying that she would be robbed.
Revision: She carefully locked the car, worrying that she would be robbed.
Intentional Use of Fragments
Sometimes authors use sentence fragments intentionally, to add emphasis to their writing or to convey something harsh or disjointed.
- "I'm home, but the house is gone. Not a sandbag, not a nail or a scrap of wire."
(Tim O'Brien, "LZ Gator, Vietnam." The New York Times Magazine)
- "Late afternoon. The sky hunkers down, presses, like a lover, against the land. Small sounds. A far sheep, faint barking. Time to drive on, toward Strathpeffer, friends, a phone call from my father."
(Judith Kitchen, "Culloden," Only the Dance)
- "He looked levelly at the great red face across the desk. 'It's a remarkable case-history. Galloping paranoia. Delusions of jealousy and persecution. Megalomaniac hatred and desire for revenge."
(Ian Fleming, Moonraker)
- "A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State's motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY."
(Aldous Huxley, Brave New World)
- "The hawk sailing by at 200 feet, a squirming snake in its talons. Salt in the drinking water. Salt, selenium, arsenic, radon and radium in the water in the gravel in your bones."
(Edward Abbey, Journey Home)
Are Sentence Fragments OK?
Although usually assumed to be a grammatical mistake, as you can see in the examples above, fragments of sentences can be used deliberately to lend more meaning to words or impart a specific tone. Having said that, sentence fragments should always be reviewed to make sure they don't need to be revised so that they carry a complete thought.