Sentences

Alley Oops

Why learn the different types of sentences and their functions? So you can write correct ones, bubba. When your sentences aren't correct, no one will know what the dickens you're saying. This is not a good thing.

There are two basic types of sentence errors: fragments and run-ons. These problems with sentence construction cause clumsy, unpolished writing and speech. Let's look at each of these sentence errors in detail so you'll be able to fix them with ease.

Fragments: Lost in Place

You Could Look It Up

A sentence fragment is a group of words that does not express a complete thought. A fragment is the same as a dependent clause.

Danger, Will Robinson

Don't be misled by a capital letter at the beginning of a word group. Starting a group of words with a capital letter doesn't make the word group a sentence any more than putting a comb on a hen makes her a rooster.

Quoth the Maven

Experienced writers often use fragments to create realistic-sounding dialogue. They know that few people ever speak in complete sentences, regardless of what we'd like to think.

As its name suggests, a sentence fragment is a group of words that do not express a complete thought. Most times, a fragment is missing a subject, a verb, or both. Other times, a fragment may have a subject and a verb but still not express a complete thought. Fragments don't discriminate: They can be phrases as well as clauses.

There are three main ways that fragments occur. And here they are:

You can correct a fragment two ways:

Run-Ons and Comma Splices: It Could Be a Stretch

A run-on sentence is two incorrectly joined independent clauses. A comma splice is a run-on with a comma where the two independent clauses run together. When your sentences run together, your ideas are garbled. For instance:

So far, so good, but there are two important facts to realize about run-ons:

You Could Look It Up

A run-on sentence is two incorrectly joined independent clauses. A comma splice is a run-on with a comma where the two sentences run together.

You can correct a run-on sentence in one of four ways. Let's use Godzilla as our example.

Quoth the Maven

Be sure to use a comma before the coordinating conjunction in a compound sentence, unless the two independent clauses are very short. More on this in Punctuation.

Seventh-Inning Stretch

Take a few minutes to fix the fragments and run-ons in these two anecdotes.

  1. In the late 1900s, the man who was shot out of the cannon every day. At the Barnum and Bailey Circus decided to quit his wife had asked him to find a less risky way of making a living P. T. Barnum hated to lose a good man. So he sent him a message, “I beg you to reconsider—men of your caliber are hard to find.”
  2. In 1946, Winston Churchill traveled to Fulton, Missouri, to deliver a speech. Which turned out to be his famous Iron Curtain address. And to be present at the dedication of a bust in his honor. After his speech, a rather attractive and ample woman approached the wartime prime minister of England and said, “Mr. Churchill, I traveled more than a hundred miles this morning. For the unveiling of your bust.” Churchill, who was known far and wide for his quick wit, replied, “Madam, I assure you, in that regard I would gladly return the favor.”

Answers

Possible responses:

  1. In the late 1900s, the man who was shot out of the cannon every day at the Barnum and Bailey Circus decided to quit because his wife had asked him to find a less risky way of making a living. P. T. Barnum hated to lose a good man, so he sent him a message, “I beg you to reconsider—men of your caliber are hard to find.”
  2. In 1946, Winston Churchill traveled to Fulton, Missouri, to deliver a speech, which turned out to be his famous Iron Curtain address, and to be present at the dedication of a bust in his honor. After his speech, a rather attractive and ample woman approached the wartime prime minister of England and said, “Mr. Churchill, I traveled more than a hundred miles this morning for the unveiling of your bust.” Churchill, who was known far and wide for his quick wit, replied, “Madam, I assure you, in that regard I would gladly return the favor.”
book cover

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style © 2003 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book direct from the publisher, visit the Penguin USA website or call 1-800-253-6476. You can also purchase this book at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

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