Find and Correct Sentence Fragments to Polish an Academic Essay

Some student essays get flagged for run-on sentences. Others, though, deal with an opposite problem, but one that can distract readers just as much. Sentence fragments are a problem because they are incomplete sentences. In fact, they are usually incomplete thoughts.

Find and Correct Sentence Fragments

Fortunately for students, grammar checkers will usually catch fragments as well as help those who’d like to ask to write my essay for me. That doesn’t mean, though, that students always know how to correct those problems. How can a student catch the problem on her own, and how can she fix it?

Finding Fragments in an Essay

Grammar checkers are nice, but they are not 100% reliable. Until they are, students need to also check over their essays to ensure their papers are as perfect as they can be.

An easy way to do this is to trade papers with a friend. Sometimes another person can spot mistakes. There is also a way a student can check his papers on his own. As tedious as it might seem, reading through one’s essay backward is a time-tested method that works. By reading one sentence at a time backward, a fragment is easier to catch. If the student reads a sentence that says, “Although you might not notice it at the time,” he will likely realize that this sentence is not a complete thought. Therefore, it is a fragment and needs to be fixed.

Fixing Fragments in a Paper

Once a sentence fragment is identified, how does a student correct the problem? While there are many ways to do so, usually fragments can and should be combined with a nearby sentence. Quite often, fragments are the completion of an earlier thought or one that follows. In the following example, for instance, the student has written a sentence followed by a fragment:

  • A teacher often needs to multitask, because she might have one reading group at a table, other students doing seatwork, and other children in a corner working on an art project, and that’s why organizational skills are important. Although patience is most important.

“Although patience is most important” is a fragment, but it should simply be “absorbed” into the previous sentence. Combining the sentence and the fragment completes the student’s thought:

  • A teacher often needs to multitask, because she might have one reading group at a table, other students doing seatwork, and other children in a corner working on an art project, and that’s why organizational skills are important, although patience is most important.

Sometimes this technique won’t work, and if the sentence cannot be combined with one on either side of it, something else must be done. For example, a student must do something different when she encounters a sentence like this:

  • As teachers continue to develop different skills, such as communicating, being patient, and learning how to balance several activities at once, from running a reading group in one corner to keeping kids on task in their seats.

The problem with this fragment is that the student has a complete thought, but it begins with a subordinating conjunction (as) that leads readers to believe there is more to the sentence, when – really – there isn’t. The easiest way to correct this fragment is to remove the subordinating conjunction. Then the fragment becomes a sentence that can stand on its own:

  • Teachers continue to develop different skills, such as communicating, being patient, and learning how to balance several activities at once, from running a reading group in one corner to keeping kids on task in their seats.

Fixing Fragments Makes Essays Stronger

Sentence fragments, just like other grammar errors, can be distracting to readers. More than that, though, they can bring down an essay’s grade. Students who find that their papers are marked for fragment errors on a frequent basis will want to check their papers specifically for these errors and fix them when they find them.

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