Lesson for Young Writers: Avoid Fragments and Run-ons
Today’s post comes from a lesson we provide in Middle School Composition 1. It is written for young writers.
Growing writers should make it a habit to always write in complete sentences, even if more experienced writers sometimes choose not to. The two mistakes are to create fragments or run-ons instead of complete sentences. This lesson will explain fragments and run-ons and how to correct them.
First, let’s review the five essential characteristics of a sentence:
- A sentence always begins with a capital letter.
- A sentence always ends with a period (.), a question mark (?), or an exclamation point (!). These are called end marks.
- A sentence always contains a subject.
- A sentence always contains a predicate.
- A sentence always expresses a complete thought.
Anytime you leave out one of the last three characteristics of a sentence — a subject, a predicate, or a complete thought — you are left with an incomplete sentence, or sentence fragment. This is a common problem among young writers.
Fixing the problem is as simple as adding the missing elements. Here are a few examples and their corrected versions.
|Sailing until it vanished over the horizon.
|The ship sailed until it vanished over the horizon.
|The terrible sea with its fathomless dangers.
|The terrible sea holds fathomless dangers.
|Whenever the game is on the line.
|Whenever the game is on the line, Stan wants the ball.
Another common problem occurs when students improperly join more than one sentence with only a comma or no punctuation at all. We call these run-on sentences. Below are three kinds of run-ons to avoid.
1. The comma splice: Joining two or more sentences with only a comma creates a run-on called a comma splice.
Example: The ticket booth opened at noon, by two o’clock the concert was sold out.
Commas are not strong enough to hold two sentences together. You need a period or a semicolon for that.
2. The rambling sentence: A rambling sentence goes on and on. Rambling sentences often overuse the word and.
Example: The private investigator discovered footprints under the windows, and dusted for fingerprints on the doorknobs, and found a suspicious handkerchief on the tile floor while calling headquarters on the kitchen phone.
3. The fused sentence: A fused sentence mashes two complete sentences together without any punctuation at all.
Example: The yard sale was more profitable than expected it brought in more than two hundred dollars.
There are several ways to correct run-ons:
1. Separate into sentences: Divide the run-on into two or more complete sentences using periods.
The yard sale was more profitable than expected. It brought in more than two hundred dollars.
2. Combine using a conjunction: You can use a coordinating conjunction (like and, but, or), or a conjunctive adverb (like however, therefore, thus), or a subordinating conjunction (like if, when, because).
The ticket booth opened at noon, but by two o’clock the concert was sold out.
The ticket booth opened at noon; however, by two o’clock the concert was sold out.
The yard sale was more profitable than expected because it brought in more than two hundred dollars.
3. Combine using a semicolon: A semicolon is strong enough to connect sentences, but does not indicate a completed sentence. Only use this option if the two ideas are very closely related to each other.
The yard sale was more profitable than expected; it brought in more than two hundred dollars.
This probably seems like a lot of grammar to remember. Don’t worry; just do your best. In time, writing in complete sentences will become natural.