Recognizing and Correcting Fragments and Run-ons Note: Punctuation Guide Attached




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Recognizing and Correcting Fragments and Run-ons

Note: Punctuation Guide Attached
(An MSJC-SJC Writing Center Handout)
Two of the most fundamental grammar mistakes made by student writers are fragments and run-ons, which are considered major grammar errors. As a college writer, it is important that you learn to identify and correct these sorts of problems in your own work.
Sentence Fragments
A sentence fragment is a grammatically incomplete sentence, either because it lacks a subject and/or a verb or because it starts with a dependent word and thus is a dependent clause (as opposed to an independent clause).
Correcting Fragments. There are two ways to correct a fragment. The easiest and most common way is to simply connect the fragment to the sentence of which it is a logical part (either the sentence in front of it or the sentence after it). The other way is to rewrite the fragment so that it is a complete sentence.
Four of the most common types of fragments include:

  1. Dependent word fragments: Unlike other types of fragments, dependent word fragments have a subject and verb, the two necessary components for a complete sentence. But because they begin with a dependent word (e.g. because, when, while before, after) they are incomplete thoughts and cannot stand as a complete sentence.


Incorrect: Eileen drove forty miles to the nearest pet store. Because she had run out of her

dog’s favorite treats.



Correct: Eileen drove forty miles to the nearest pet store because she had run out of her

dog’s favorite treats.


Incorrect: While I was waiting for the bus. Someone approached me and asked for money.

Correct: While I was waiting for the bus, someone approached me and asked for money.


  1. Missing subject fragments: Missing subject fragments are just what they sound like—

sentences that lack a subject. Correct them by either connecting them or by adding the

subject.
Incorrect: The truck hurtled through the intersection. And slammed into the flower stand on

the corner.

Correct: The truck hurtled through the intersection and slammed into the flower stand on

the corner.



Correct: The truck hurtled through the intersection. It then slammed into the flower stand

on the corner.




  1. ing” and “to” fragments: Two more common fragment types begin with either a gerund (the “ing” form of a verb, i.e. trying) or an infinitive (the “to” form of a verb,

i.e. to try).
Incorrect: Julie spent almost four hours on the Internet. Trying to find a new job.

Correct: Julie spent almost four hours on the Internet trying to find a new job.
Incorrect: Nelson waited patiently for the red light to turn green. Not realizing that the

signal light was not working.



Correct: Nelson waited patiently for the red light to turn green, not realizing that the

signal light was not working.


Incorrect: Alfonso worked until midnight. To get his paper finished on time.

Correct: Alfonso worked until midnight to get his paper finished on time.


  1. Added detail fragments: Added detail fragments are one of the most common types of fragments and are usually preceded by phrases such as for example, such as, and including.


Incorrect: I enjoy outdoor activities. Such as hiking, cycling, and rock-climbing.

Correct: I enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and rock-climbing.

Incorrect: Tom enjoys several science fiction television shows. For example, Star Trek,

Stargate, and Battlestar Galactica.

Correct: Tom enjoys several science fiction televison shows. For example, he regularly

watches Star Trek, Stargate, and Battlestar Galactica.



Note: When introducing a list with a phrase like “such as” or “for example,” do not use a

colon with the phrase. You can use a colon to introduce a list, but if you do, the word

group before the colon must be a complete thought (an independent clause).
Incorrect: Helena likes loud, primary colors such as: red, blue, and yellow.

Correct: Helena likes loud, primary colors such as red, blue, and yellow.

Correct: Helena likes loud, primary colors: red, blue, and yellow.

Run-on Sentences
Run-on sentences are two or more sentences run together without the proper punctuation between them. Run-ons come in two types: fused sentences and comma splices. (Note: some texts and teachers do not consider comma splices to be true run-ons, but most do.)
1.) Fused sentences: Fused sentences are two or more sentences that are “fused” together rather than being separated with the proper punctuation.
Incorrect: Tony is in love with Lola he thinks she is beautiful.

Correct: Tony is in love with Lola. He thinks she is beautiful.

2.) Comma Splices: A comma splice occurs when a writer “splices” two sentences together by using a comma alone between them.
Incorrect: Tony is in love with Lola, he thinks she is beautiful.

Correct: Tony is in love with Lola, and he thinks she is beautiful.
Correcting Run-ons. There are essentially five methods to correct run-on sentences, and while more than one technique may work to correct any given run-on, one method might be preferable to another depending on the specific situation.

  1. Use a period (and capitalize as necessary).

  2. Use a comma with a connecting word.

  3. Use a semicolon alone.

  4. Use a semicolon with a conjunctive adverb.

  5. Use subordination.


1. Using a period: Using a period is perhaps the easiest and most fundamental way to fix a run-on, but if you choose this technique, don’t forget to capitalize as necessary.
Incorrect: Felix is interested in astronomy, he is fascinated by the heavens.

Correct: Felix is interested in astronomy. He is fascinated by the heavens.
2. Using a comma with a coordinating conjunction (one of the FANBOYS). If you use a comma to fix a fused sentence, or if you are correcting a comma splice, you must also use a coordinating conjunction, i.e. the FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.
Incorrect: Tom drove to the store, he was out of milk and eggs.

Correct: Tom drove to the store, for he was out of milk and eggs.
Incorrect: Tina is often late for work, she usually leaves early, too.

Correct: Tina is often late for work, and she leaves early, too.
3. Using a semicolon alone. The semicolon can be used to connect two sentences rather than using a comma and a FANBOYS, but its use is not arbitrary. Semicolons are used to connect two sentences that are closely related in content.
Incorrect: My mother likes musicals, my father prefers action films.

Correct: My mother likes musicals; my father prefers action films.
Incorrect: Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system, Mercury is the smallest.

Correct: Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system; Mercury is the smallest.
4. Using a semicolon with a conjunctive adverb. If you connect two sentences using a conjunctive adverb such as however, nevertheless, and in addition (see attached list), use a semicolon before the conjunctive adverb and a comma after it.

Incorrect: Alfonso insisted that the work be done by midnight, he refused to pay overtime,

though.


Correct: Alfonso insisted that the work be done by midnight; however, he refused to pay

overtime.


Incorrect: Don works two jobs every week he also goes to school part-time.

Correct: Don works two jobs every week; in addition, he goes to school part-time.
5A. Using subordination. Run-on sentences can also be corrected by using subordination,

turning one of the independent clauses into a dependent clause, often by using a dependent word such as after, because, and when (see attached list). If the dependent clause comes at the start of the sentence, follow it with a comma. If it comes at the end of the sentence, do not use a comma.


Incorrect: Pilar enrolled in a French class, she was hoping to take a trip to Paris.

Correct: Pilar enrolled in a French class because she was hoping to take a trip to Paris.
Incorrect: Hans saw a TV show about shark attacks, after that he refused to swim in the

ocean.


Correct: After he saw a show about shark attacks, Hans refused to swim in the ocean.
Incorrect: The front door banged loudly in the wind, Dorothy almost jumped out of her

skin.


Correct: When the front door banged loudly in the wind, Dorothy almost jumped out of

her skin.


5B. Subordination can take other forms as well, including using a gerund (the “ing” form of a verb) or a relative pronoun (such as who or which). Also note that a dependent word group can interrupt an independent clause rather than preceding it or following it.
Incorrect: Dave decided to invest his inheritance, this proved to be a smart move.

Correct: Dave decided to invest his inheritance, which proved to be a smart move.
Incorrect: Mons Olympus is the tallest mountain on Mars, it is fifteen miles high.

Correct: Mons Olympus is the tallest mountain on Mars, rising fifteen miles into the air.
Incorrect: Edwin Hubble is a famous twentieth century astronomer he discovered that the

universe is expanding.



Correct: Edwin Hubble, a famous twentieth century astronomer, discovered that the

universe is expanding.



The chart on the next two pages is a must-have.

Make a copy and keep it with your writing materials!!

A Chart of Methods for Correcting Run-On Sentences

(An MSJC-SJC Writing Center Handout)


Method 1

Create two sentences.

Independent . Capital letter Independent

clause clause

Coordination

Method 2

Use a comma and , for

a coordinate , and

conjunction , nor

, but

Independent , or Independent

clause , yet clause

, so
Method 3

Use a semicolon
Independent ; Independent

clause clause


; also,

; as a result,

; besides,

; certainly,

; consequently,

; finally,

; furthermore,

; however,

Method 4 ; incidentally,

Use a semicolon and ; in addition,

a conjunctive adverb ; in fact,

; instead,

Independent ; likewise, Independent

clause ; meanwhile, clause

; moreover,

; nevertheless, (Conjunctive adverbs that are

; next only one syllable do not need a

; on the other hand, comma.)

; otherwise,

; similarly,

; still

; then

; therefore,

; thus

; undoubtedly,

Subordination


after


although

as

as if



because

before


even though

Method 5 if

in order that

Independent since Dependent

clause so that clause

though

unless (No comma is needed when a when dependent clause “trails” the whenever independent clause.)



where

whereas


whether

while



After


Although

As

As if



Because

Before


Even though

Method 6 If

In order that

Dependent Since Independent

clause So that clause

Though

Unless (When a dependent clause introduces an



Until independent clause, put a comma after it.) When

Whenever


Where

Whereas


Whether

While


We sincerely thank and acknowledge contributions by the following:

Hacker, Diane. The Bedford Handbook. 7th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2006.



Langan, John. English Skills. 8th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2007.
This handout made available by Writing Center staff for the Mt. San Jacinto College San Jacinto Campus Writing Center. 2009.


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