Beware of two common sentence-writing errors:

Sentence fragment: a statement with no independent clause

Run-on sentence: two or more independent clauses that are improperly connected

Sentence Fragments

Every sentence in formal writing must have an independent clause: a clause that expresses a complete thought and can stand alone. Dependent clauses do not express a complete thought and cannot stand alone.

Independent Clause: Brian must study for many hours.

This clause is independent because it expresses a full thought, which is a complete sentence.

Dependent Clause: since school is so difficult.

This clause is not a complete thought. It contains the subordinate conjunction “since”, making it unfinished. It needs an independent clause to make a full sentence:

Brian must study for hours since school is so difficult.

Errors are made when a dependent clause is used without an independent one.

Independent clauses contain a subject and a predicate and do not begin with a subordinate conjunction such as:

 after as while
 if provided that before
 so that though where
 although because unless
 in order since that

NOTE: Beginning single-clause sentences with coordinate conjunctions such as and, but, or, nor, for is acceptable in moderation, although some readers may object to beginning a sentence with And.

The following examples contain both sentences fragments and solutions. Rewrite these fragments as complete sentences.


INCORRECT:
Global warming. That is what the scientists and journalists are worried about this month.

CORRECT: Global warming is the cause of concern for scientists and journalists this month.

INCORRECT: Seattle is a wonderful place to live. Having mountains, ocean, and forests all within easy driving distance. If you can ignore the rain.

CORRECT: Seattle is a wonderful place to live, with mountains, ocean, and forests all within easy driving distance. However, it certainly does rain often.

INCORRECT: Why do I think the author’s position is preposterous? Because he makes generalizations that I know are untrue.

CORRECT: The author’s position is preposterous because he makes generalizations that I know are untrue.

Run-on Sentences

Run-on sentences occur when two or more sentences are written as one. Time pressure may cause you to write run-ons. When you proofread your essays, watch out for independent clauses that are not joined with any punctuation or are only joined with a comma.

RUN-ON SENTENCE: Current insurance practices are unfair they discriminate against the people who need insurance most.

You can repair run-on sentences in two ways. First,

1. Use a period to make separate sentences of the independent clauses.

2. Use a conjunction to turn an independent clause into a dependent one and to make explicit how the clauses are related. (This method is usually the more effective.)

CORRECT: Current insurance practices are unfair, in that they discriminate against the people who need insurance most.

One cause of run-on sentences is the misuse of adverbs, such as however, nevertheless, furthermore, likewise, and therefore.

RUN-ON SENTENCE: Current insurance practices are discriminatory, furthermore they make insurance too expensive for the poor.

CORRECT: Current insurance practices are discriminatory. Furthermore, they make insurance too expensive for the poor.

Example

However much she tries to act like a Southern belle, she cannot hide her roots. The daughter of a Yankee fisherman, taciturn and always polite.

EXPLANATION

Sample Rewrite: However much she tries to act like a Southern belle, she cannot hide her roots. She will always be the daughter of a Yankee fisherman, taciturn and ever polite.

The daughter of a Yankee fisherman is a sentence fragment, since the group of words contains no verb.

Next LSAT: September 21st

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