What Is a Sentence Fragment?

Here’s a question that probably doesn’t come up often in your casual conversations with friends: what is a sentence fragment? The simple answer is an incomplete thought, which can lead to miscommunication. We all use sentence fragments in everyday speech, but we should avoid them for academic papers. Here’s a deeper look at what sentence fragments are and how they are used.

Anatomy of a Sentence

Clarifying the definition of a sentence fragment begins with understanding what qualifies a complete sentence. The three main components of a sentence are a subject, verb and complete thought. What is a fragment sentence example? The phrase “above the roof” lacks a verb, so there is no sense of action. A full sentence makes a clear statement about a person, place or thing. Sentence fragments can work as titles for books, songs and movies.

A two-word phrase such as “I walk” can be considered a complete sentence because it contains a verb. A command such as “don’t start” can also stand alone as a complete sentence. You might still ask: what is a fragment sentence example that isn’t so obvious? Here are different types of sentence fragments that might occur in an interview:

1. “Not now, maybe later.”

2. “People in the market, not just a few, but a high percentage.”

3. “Lots of variables in the next earnings report. Many factors. Many challenges.”

4. “Predictions for the future, not bound by the past.”

5. “Rolled down a hill with bent wheels, but nobody got hurt.”

Each of the above sentence fragments has something in common: they can be perceived in many different ways. Each example lacks clarity in the subject, verb or main theme. It would be challenging for anyone to understand these messages the way they were intended to be perceived without knowing more information.

When to Avoid Sentence Fragments

Using a sentence fragment in writing or speech isn’t necessarily wrong, as it depends on context. You should avoid sentence fragments if you are writing a college term paper unless the course calls for a casual writing tone. Any official letter to an organization should also be free of sentence fragments to avoid unnecessary confusion.

Professional journalists are often paid to write in AP style, which uses complete sentences. But even top news publications sometimes use sentence fragments as headlines. Sometimes commentary pieces break all kinds of journalism guidelines to emphasize freedom of expression. But most of the time, a headline needs a subject and verb to paint the picture of why the story is newsworthy.

Where Sentence Fragments Work

Social media is where language gets butchered every day as Twitter users send endless tweets that often consist of sentence fragments. As long as your audience knows what you mean, it works as communication. But keep in mind sentence fragments are easy to misinterpret, especially among mobile device users scrolling quickly through tweets. Regular followers of a post might know what a person means when they post “HIRED!”

The main problem with using sentence fragments on social media is they can mean one thing to one group of people and something else to another group. That’s why you should think about the audience and the message before you post something to the public. Social media is also the place to find countless mistakes in real-time involving spelling and grammar. Ask yourself if your audience knows you well enough to figure out your coded messages that make up your communication style.

One of the most creative uses of sentence fragments is in song lyrics or titles. Not all songs tell stories in complete sentences. Sometimes, words convey certain emotions and don’t require the subject + verb building blocks of understanding.

Conclusion

Understanding what a sentence fragment is helps you become a better communicator. This knowledge will help you be conscious of formulating clear messages that are perceived as intended. At the same time, there are artistic reasons to embrace sentence fragments and the imagery they create. For creators, there are endless possibilities for using sentence fragments in unique ways.


Capitalize My Title is a dynamic title capitalization tool used to make sure your titles or headlines use proper capitalization rules according to various style guides include APA, AP, MLA, and Chicago. It also counts your words and checks for grammar issues.

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