Recently, I started a series on sentence errors. Let’s take a look at the corrections of the exercises I shared then. Take out your note and compare the answers, and feel free to email me if there are perceived areas of discrepancy.
1. Chukwudi sat at his desk for at least two hours. Writing that note of apology was one of the hardest things he ever had to do. (C – Correct)
2. Marian failed to see the stop sign. Either because of the driving rain or because of her fogged-up windscreen.
Correction: Marian failed to see the stop sign, either because of the driving rain or because of her fogged-up windscreen.
3. The book contains a variety of puzzles. Such as crossword, diagramless, and fill-in.
Correction: The book contains a variety of puzzles such as crossword, diagramless, and fill-in.
4. The cast of the drama-contest entry felt ready to perform. After only three weeks’ rehearsal.
Corrected: The cast of the drama-contest entry felt ready to perform after only three weeks’ rehearsal.
So there you have it.
The focus this week is on clauses as fragments. It is relatively easy to spot a phrase as a fragment, given that it contains no subject and verb combination. On the contrary, clauses as fragments are harder to spot because they have both a subject and predicate combination and are sometimes mistakenly punctuated as complete sentences. See the following example:
The teacher asked us to go out to play. After we had completed our classwork.
If the second clause did not contain the subordinate conjunction after, it could stand alone as a sentence. Subordinate clauses cannot stand on their own and if punctuated as such, they amount to fragments.
There are adjective and adverb clause fragments; the presence of relative pronouns and some adjectives and adverbs in clausal formations may indicate a possibility of fragments.
Sometimes, a clausal fragment occurs at the beginning position of the main clause to which it should be attached.
I see this a lot in expressions constructed by well-meaning persons. Take a look at the following clausal fragment:
Adverb clause fragment: Although they were late to the meeting. They were ready for their presentation.
Corrected: Although they were late to the meeting, they were ready for their presentation.
Note that whenever a dependent clause occurs first in a sentence, a comma should be used to mark it off from the main clause. Bonus: That gives you a complex sentence!
Adjective clause fragment: Dr Oji decided that the time had finally come to begin publishing most of her research. That she had compiled during her post-doc at the University of Freiburg.
Corrected: Dr Oji decided that the time had finally come to begin publishing most of the research that she had compiled during her post-doc at the University of Freiburg.
Other fragment types
Participial phrase fragment: The rescue team found the old woman. Stuck in piles of ruins.
Corrected: The rescue team found the old woman stuck in piles of ruins. (The restrictive phrase ‘stuck in piles of ruins’ modifies ‘woman’.)
Infinitive phrase fragment: They have to wait until noon. To know the judge’s verdict.
Corrected: They have to wait until noon to know the judge’s verdict. (The infinitive phrase ‘to know the judge’s verdict’ modifies ‘have to wait’.)
Prepositional phrase fragment: We are used to being here. On time.
Corrected: We are used to being here on time. (The prepositional phrase ‘on time’ modifies the verb phrase ‘are used to being’.)
Appositive phrase fragment: I love listening to several kinds of music. Such as jazz, hip-hop, and afro.
Corrected: I love listening to several kinds of music, such as jazz, hip-hop, and afro.
Now let’s attempt the following exercises.
If one of the following items contains a fragment, rewrite the item, attaching the fragment to the complete sentence. Change capitalization and punctuation as necessary. If the item contains no fragment, write “C”.
1. The soloist interrupted the orchestra rehearsal. To replace the broken string on her violin.
2. Neighbourhood fire-alarm boxes proved to be inefficient. Because nine out of ten calls turned out to be false alarms.
3. The new telephone will be installed next week. Until then we will be using daddy’s phone.
4. Even though the conference does not begin until next week Tuesday. Every hotel room in town will be taken by Sunday night.
5. To create a product that would be oil-resistant, scientists developed synthetic rubber. Its principal use has been in tires.
6. John refused to sell the mattress for less than 50,000 Naira. Which was 50% of what he bought it.
Writing without fragments is a skill to be mastered by paying attention to the details. Proofreading one’s work after writing is one sure way to edit any inconsistencies observed. Because your writing is your brand, it is pertinent to ensure that your sentences are fragment-free.