The UVic Writer's Guide


Fragments


A sentence fragment is a piece of a sentence which has been punctuated as if it were a complete sentence. Usually it is a phrase or subordinate clause which has been improperly separated from a main clause:

Matt has been improving at school. Since he stopped skipping class.

It was the time of year when the neighbours would suddenly become uncharacteristically generous, pressing quantities of enormous zucchini on us. It being the most prolific of vegetables.

The sentences must be reconnected:

Matt has been improving at school since he stopped skipping class.

It was the time of year when the neighbours would suddenly become uncharacteristically generous, pressing quantities of enormous zuccini on us, it being the most prolific of vegetables.

Every sentence must have a main clause, and thus a complete verb.

Particularly in works of fiction, a sentence fragment can be a rhetorically effective device, but in formal writing it is more likely to be simply inept.

A tip: if you are unsure of the distinction between a complete verb and an incomplete one, or a main clause and a participle phrase, there is a simple test you can apply to find out if you have a sentence fragment, or a comma splice:


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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated September 21, 1995