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The Writer’s Reference Book


Module 6 – Fragments & Comma Splices – Hint Sheet

Fragments result when a group of words lacks an independent subject and/or verb: Joe, my pal. (no verb)

Walked three miles. (no subject)

To be a sentence, a group of words must contain a subject and a verb that are independent, that is, that can stand alone as a complete thought:

S-V. This is the symbol for an independent clause.

Birds sing.
Cows give milk.
The weather is pleasant.

Problems identifying independent subjects and verbs

  • A phrase is not a sentence.
    • Prepositional phrase fragments:
      • On the other side of the swift-rushing river.
      • By the time of the game.
    • Verbal fragments:
      • Running the business. (participial phrase)
      • To earn a lot of money. (infinitive phrase)
  • A dependent clause is not a sentence.
    • After the party was over.
    • When the clock struck one.

Comma Splices result when two independent clauses are spliced together with a comma.

Comma Splice Pattern: Sentence Patterns:

S-V, S-V. S-V . S-V.
S-V ; S-V.

You can join two independent clauses together with a comma if you use a coordinate conjunction. The pattern is:

S-V, and/or/but/nor/for/yet/so S-V.
Mother left early, but Father was late.

You can join a dependent clause (starts with words like where, when, because, etc.) to an independent clause with a comma:

When the rain stopped, we left the cabin.

You must use a semicolon (;) to join independent clauses with conjunctive adverbs. Using a comma [,] creates a comma splice. The pattern is:

S-V ; however/therefore/etc., S-V.

Conjunctive adverbs usually are followed by a comma because they are interrupters.

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