I took yesterday off. I mean: I didn’t have to deliver pizzas; I didn’t vacuum; I didn’t do dishes or laundry; I ignored the kids; I left my wife to her own devices. I read a few Raymond Carver short stories, watched some TV, and played way too much Candy Crush. I hate that game, but it was a glorious day off from everything, and I certainly didn’t get any writing done. Any thoughts on grammar yesterday evaporated with my morning coffee, that is for sure.
But shall we continue? Today’s grammar error is number 12: the sentence fragment.
And we all remember what a sentence is, right?
A sentence has to have at least two elements: a subject and a verb. Without either the subject or the verb, you don’t have a sentence. Instead, you have a fragment.
· The dog the cat.
· The dog.
· The chased the cat.
· Chased the cat.
· The cat.
All of that above, sentence fragments. They’re wrong. Don’t do it.
7 Types of Fragments
There are actually seven different types of fragments.
· Prepositional Phrase
· Appositional Phrase
· Participial Phrase
· Gerund Phrase
· Infinitive Phrase
· Adjective Clause
· Adverb Clause
These are all elements found within a complete complex sentence. All of them are potential sentence fragments.
We’ve already talked about what a preposition word is. The prepositional phrase includes the prepositional word and the phrase connected to that word.
In spite of having done nothing yesterday, I enjoyed my day.
An appositional phrase is a noun-based element lacking a verb.
On my day off, yesterday, I did nothing.
A participial phrase is a non-restrictive element, usually beginning with a past tense verb and acts like an adjective.
I enjoyed my day off, covered in awesome sauce.
A gerund phrase begins with a verb ending in ing. Note that this ing verb or gerund is not a verb. The gerund acts like a noun.
I earn money on the weekends, delivering pizzas.
An infinitive phrase uses the infinitive form of a verb (to eat, to walk, to run, to sleep, etc.)
I deliver pizzas to earn money.
An adjective clause begins with who, which, or that and describes the noun or the subject of the main clause of the sentence.
I had the day off from my pizza delivery job that I normally work on weekends.
The adverb clause begins, normally, with because, if, although, and when and describes the sentence’s verb.
When the weekend rolls around, I go to work.
All of these, if left alone, are fragments:
· In spite of having done nothing yesterday.
· Covered in awesome sauce.
· Delivering pizzas.
· To earn money.
· That I normally work on weekends.
· When the weekend rolls around.
So don’t do any of the above.
But check these out:
· Classic. A book which people praise and don’t read. – Mark Twain
· Memory … All alone in the moonlight –from Cats!
· Farewell, fair cruelty – William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
· LONDON. Michaelmas Term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. –Charles Dickens, Bleak House
· Scared sick looking at it. – Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time
· Above all Lucy. A risk to own anything: a car, a pair of shoes, a packet of cigarettes. Not enough to go around. Not enough cars, shoes, cigarettes. Too many people, too few things. –J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace
· The preflight pep talk. – James Ellroy, The Cold Six Thousand
There’s a common thread running through the above examples: they’re all from fiction authors: not academic writing, not newspaper writing, and not technical writing. For example, how many sentence fragments can you find in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! ?
And, can you think of another style of writing that utilizes fragments to a great effect? Here’s a hint:
The Better Picker-upper!