Catching Fragments and Run-Ons | Kent State Stark | Kent State University

Catching Fragments and Run-Ons

Catching Sentence Fragments & Run-on Sentences

Here’s an easy way to catch a run-on and snag a sentence fragment:

  • Does it glide effortlessly off your tongue, or do the words bounce awkwardly from your throat? 

Let’s fix a sentence fragment: (Read each sentence aloud.)

A: The tall man stumbled into the saloon. Then tripped over a chair and passed out.
OR
B: The tall man stumbled into the saloon, tripped over a chair, and passed out.

Now, which one is a fragment? You guessed it! In sentence A, the second sentence is a fragment. We corrected it by adding a comma and attaching it to the first one.

A sentence fragment most often needs a subject. (“Then tripped over a chair and passed out,” has no subject.) Ask yourself: Who tripped over the chair?

Save the use of a sentence fragment for those situations that allow for one:

  • In dialogue: “Do you want to go to McDonalds?” asked Micah. “Oh sure, yeah!” said John.
  • For emphasis: “We used to enjoy having Fred join us for dinner.  Until he gave up utensils.”
  • As an exclamation: “No way!”

Let’s fix a run-on sentence: (Read aloud again!)

A. Marsha was having a bad hair day she stood at the bathroom mirror primping for over an hour. When she finally realized she was late, she hopped into her car and rushed to work.
OR
B. Having a bad hair day, Marsha stood primping at the bathroom mirror for over an hour. When she finally realized she was late, she hopped into her car and rushed to work.

You’re right if you thought the first sentence was a run-on! A run-on sentence usually contains two separate independent clauses, each with their own subject and verb. We corrected the run-on by making the first clause dependent and attaching it with a comma. You could, however, use a coordinating conjunction (“and,” “but,” “or,” “for,” “nor,” “yet,” or “so”) instead. Be careful, though; when you add a conjunction to a run-on, you may create a very lengthy sentence.