How do you check your writing for sentence fragments and run-on sentence errors?
Finding a solution is simple once you can recognize what the problem is with a sentence. When you write in a hurry, you will always have a few corrections you will need to make.
It’s easy to make little grammar and spelling mistakes or use misused words. I don’t think there is a writer who doesn’t make a spelling error occasionally.
Every writer does a quick spell check and proofreads for simple grammar errors. But what about errors at a sentence level?
Grammar check at the sentence level
You have to pay careful attention when proofreading or grammar checking to how you structure both short or long sentences in your text.
In a well-formed sentence, you express a complete thought that should make perfect sense to your reader.
The basic rule of a complete sentence is that it is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb.
Simple sentences usually have a subject and a verb plus an object.
For example, I walk my dog.
In complex sentences or compound sentences, you can use many more devices.
These include defining and non-defining clauses, coordinating conjunctions, dependent clauses, independent clauses, and punctuation such as commas or even semicolons.
Of course, making sure that you join all the clauses correctly and in the right order is what good writing is all about.
The most common problems with sentence structure are run-on sentences, comma splices, and fused sentences.
Take a look at the following examples to help you understand how these sentence structures work.
1. What are sentence fragments?
The usual causes of sentence fragments are that the sentence is lacking a subject or a verb.
It often happens with sentences starting with because.
Perhaps there is a separated prepositional phrase or dependent clause.
Look for the following errors to help you when you are revising the fragment.
Check for any fragments in your sentences and then correct them to make sure each sentence is complete.
Sentence fragment examples
There is no subject
Looking forward to meeting you on Saturday. Incorrect
I’m looking forward to meeting you on Saturday. Correct
He was scared. Running in fear toward the forest. Incorrect
He was scared and ran in fear toward the forest. Correct
There is no verb
It was Christmas. A time of merriment and joy. Incorrect
It was Christmas and a time of merriment and joy. Correct
I found a great new job. The remedy for all my financial problems. Incorrect
I found a great new job, which will be the remedy for all my financial problems. Correct
Separated prepositional phrase
We had a great time. In spite of the rain. Incorrect
In spite of the rain, we had a great time. Correct
He lived in Rome. For many years. Incorrect
He lived in Rome for many years. Correct
Dependent clause sentence fragments
She stood in the pouring rain. Waiting for her bus to arrive. Incorrect
She stood in the pouring rain, waiting for her bus to arrive. Correct
John ran quickly to his office. To be sure he was on time. Incorrect
To be sure he was on time, John ran quickly to his office. Correct
2. What is a run-on sentence?
A run-on sentence is also called a fused sentence.
This mistake occurs when you join two independent clauses that are complete sentences together.
But they are not correctly connected. Clauses that you do not join accurately can create confusion for a reader.
Conjunctions like and, but, for, nor, yet, or, so can often fix the problem.
You can also use a subordinating conjunction.
These include after, although, as, and because as a way to join two clauses and create a correct second subordinating clause.
Adding a conjunctive adverb such as however, moreover, therefore, or nevertheless can also be used as a solution.
Another form of a run-on sentence is called a comma splice.
It happens when a comma joins two independent clauses. The solution to this problem is usually to separate them into two sentences and add a capital letter.
Run-on sentence examples
The next phase will be more difficult, you should get ready as soon as you can. Incorrect
The next phase will be more difficult, so you should get ready as soon as you can. Correct
I can’t figure out how to set up this router, it came without an instruction manual. Incorrect
I can’t figure out how to set up this router because it came without an instruction manual. Correct
We’ll go to the cinema, then we’re going to have dinner. Incorrect
We’ll go to the cinema, and then we’re going to have dinner. Correct
We’ll go to the cinema. Then we’re going to have dinner. Correct
The taxi didn’t arrive, therefore, we had to walk home. Incorrect
The taxi didn’t arrive. Therefore, we had to walk home. Correct
We had to walk home because the taxi didn’t arrive. Correct
3. What is a compound sentence?
There are three types of sentences, which are compound, complex, and compound-complex.
A compound sentence consists of at least two independent clauses.
However, a complex sentence consists of an independent clause and at least one additional dependent clause.
Joining independent clauses together using these two forms creates a compound-complex sentence.
Compound sentence examples
I ran out of money, so I had to cut short my vacation.
I wanted to go to work, but I was just too sick.
She hasn’t been to New York, nor has she been to Los Angeles.
Judy hates going to the dentist, but she went for her check-up on Monday.
He got home at seven, and then he went straight to bed.
Complex sentence examples
Apple has posted huge profits since it released the iPhone.
Although Mary was nervous, she passed her driving test.
Because I was running late, I grabbed a sandwich to eat on the way.
Although it was fun, I was really tired when it finished.
I’ll keep this old phone in case I need it one day.
Even if Tom likes skiing, he doesn’t go very often because it is too expensive.
Mike forgot to buy a birthday present for his wife, so he gave her a gift card, which she spent very quickly.
I was saddened to learn that my friend’s mother, who was only fifty-three, had passed away after a long illness.
I grew up in Wellington, which is often called the Windy City, but moved to Sydney when I was thirty-five to start a new job.
When you want to write with clarity, keep your sentences short and simple. It is the easiest way to avoid sentence errors. It is a formula that many article writers use in blog writing.
When you write with basic verb-subject-object sentences and avoid using the passive voice, it is easy to read your writing. It is a style that suits most online reading.
However, in fiction, painting a scene requires longer and more complex sentence structures.
By doing so, though, the chances of making errors at a sentence level increase. These need accurate punctuation and conjunctions.
If you are unsure, use a reliable and accurate grammar checker to help you find your sentence mistakes.
The best ones usually include checks for sentence fragments and run-on sentences.
The examples I have listed in this article should help you recognize the different basic sentence types and help you correct them.
Understanding the differences between these basic structures will help you write your sentences better and more accurately.
Related reading: Comma Before Or After But? When And Why You Need A Comma