Sentence Structure and Fragments


I love sentences.

Sentences are great.

Sentences make it possible to communicate.

However, people have been able to communicate without using complete sentences and incomplete sentences have seemingly taken their place. This makes some people sad, so in an attempt to make that petty minority happy, I will try my best to explain what a sentence is and what it is not.

A sentence is made up of words containing a subject (topic of the sentence) and a predicate (what is said about the subject). The predicate always contains a verb.


The subject can be a person, place, or thing. 

Example of a sentence


The predicate always contains a verb. 

Sometimes the predicate is only a verb:


While short, it meets the criteria for a sentence.

Sometimes a sentence only has a verb. This is called the imperative.

The imperatives in the form of a command don’t have to have a subject because the subject is implied.


If we’re running from a bear, every syllable counts. I don’t need to say “you” when I tell you to run for your life!


These are example of complete sentences. Complete sentences make sense and don’t leave me confused.

Incomplete sentences or fragments confuse me.

A phrase pretending to be a sentence:

Can’t type anymore.

There’s no subject. 

This is an example of a phrase. A phrase is a group of words that lacks a subject and/or a predicate. When a phrase is punctuated like a sentence, it’s a fragment.

The phrase “The world,” confuses me because I don’t know what the world is doing (no predicate). It’s just a lonely subject. To fix this, this fragment can be attached to a sentence:

I’m so tired. Can’t type anymore.   –>

I’m so tired that I can’t type anymore.

Alternatively, the fragment can be made into a new sentence:


In other situations, you could add a verb to make a fragment a sentence. 

In that nifty book, Easywriter, there are a few examples of different types of fragments.

Fragments that start with transitions like also, for example, such as, or that:

I really like citrus fruits. For example, limes, lemons, and the majestic orange.

I really like to use “For example” to start off my sentences. It makes me feel smart. Unfortunately, using the transition in that way makes it a fragment.

I really like citrus fruits, for example, limes, lemons, and the majestic orange.

By connecting the phrase to a sentence, “for example” can be used without it being a fragment. 

Fragments aren’t the biggest issue in the world, but making sure to write in complete sentences can really make a difference. We tend to speak in fragments in our everyday lives, but writing is different from speaking. Complete sentences convey a complete idea, which is central in communicating our thoughts. So by consistently writing in complete sentences, we can better connect with others.

What about texting in fragments?


“What Is a Sentence?” What Is A Sentence? N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2016.
Lunsford, Andrea A., Paul Kei. Matsuda, and Christine M. Tardy. Easywriter. Boston:
Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2014. Print.




Homophones are one of the most common English grammar mistakes for children and teenagers. When you break it down it is very easy to see why. The word homophone splits into two root parts: “homo” meaning “the same” and “phone” meaning “speech sound”. So when you put it together and get “the same sound,” you might wonder how you are supposed to know the difference between words when they sound exactly the same!


Well, there are some tricks that you can remember to ensure you use the correct spelling of a homophone. Before we get into those life-saving tricks, let’s look at some of the most commonly mistaken examples of homophones. Some homophones are much more difficult to grasp than others. A lot of them you mastered when you were a little kid, and some might still give you a little bit of trouble to this day. I see dozens of mistakes on Facebook and Twitter every single day, so it tells me that not even adults have totally figured out this small sliver of grammar. Let’s start out with some of the easier examples of homophones to get the idea.

  • Red, read 
    • “I read somewhere that Taylor’s favorite color is red.
  • Paws, pause 
    • Pause the game for a second and tell me if something looks wrong with Buster’s paws.”
  • Ate, eight
    • “I ate eight slices of pizza for dinner last night.”

Now here are some trickier ones with tips to help you remember:

  • Advice, advise 
    • “I advise you to take my advice.”
      • Tip: “Advice” has the word “ice” in it, which are both nouns.
  • Affect, effect
    • “Will knowing the chemical effect of the medicine affect your decision to purchase it?”
      • Tip: “Affect” is an action word and both “affect” and “action” start with the letter “a”.
  • Principal, principle
    • For my outstanding use of principles in the situation, I got personally thanked by the principal.”
      • Tip: Remember that the principal is your pal and you will always get this word right.
  • There, their, they’re
    • Examples:
      • “I don’t know if I have enough time to get there, it is a 20 minute walk.”
      • “If Bill and Steve take their car they will make it with plenty of time to spare.”
      • They’re leaving now and picking up the rest of the group.”
  • To, too, two
    • Examples:
      • “If you come with me to Chipotle later, I will pay.”
      • “Okay, Jimmy said he wants to come too.”
      • “I am so hungry I might get two burritos for myself.”

The “Spell Checker Poem” is a well-known poem by Mark Eckman and Jerrold H. Zar where over half the words are incorrect but all are spelled correctly. It serves as a caution to those who rely on spell-check when editing papers. Here is an excerpt:

Candidate for a Pullet Surprise

I have a spelling checker,

It came with my PC.

It plane lee marks four my revue

Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Eye ran this poem threw it,

Your sure reel glad two no.

Its vary polished in it’s weigh.

My checker tolled me sew.

A checker is a bless sing,

It freeze yew lodes of thyme.

It helps me right awl stiles two reed,

And aides me when eye rime.


Mnemonic devices can be very useful when trying to remember the differences between homophones. Everyone has a different style of remembering so try thinking of some for yourself to help you in the future.

If you struggle with these, bare with it. If you right down tricks every weak, you will be shore to sea an improvement!


Comma Usage


Commas are a fundamental part of the English language, both for writing and speaking. Commas, next to periods, are the most frequently used punctuation marks. However, the comma is commonly abused and misused. A comma provides a brief pause in a sentence. For example: Lucy, her sister, is going to join us at the park.

While they are physically small, commas are very powerful tools in writing and language that can change the meaning of a sentence.

These are a few examples of when it is appropriate to use a comma:

  • A comma can be used to separate an introductory word, phrase or clause from the main part of the sentence.

Karen studied and practiced a lot, passed her driver’s license test, and then was able to drive on her own.

  • It can join two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, so, or yet).

I bought a sweater for Kelly’s birthday, but Sarah bought Kelly the same sweater.

*The comma is placed after the first independent clause, not after the coordinating conjunction.
  • A comma can also set off introductory elements (a clause, phrase or words that come before the sentence).

After taking a nap, Tim felt ready to complete his homework.

*You do not need the comma if the sentence doesn’t sound like there is hesitancy or confusion without it.
  • A comma can set off parenthetical elements, or a part of the sentence that can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence.

Eleanor, a strict professor, decided to test her students with a surprise pop quiz.

  • A comma can also separate coordinate adjectives.

She is a smart, hard working, distinguished young woman.

  • A comma can also separate quotes.

“The purpose of this class,” Alice said to her students, “is to help you with public speaking.” 

  • Commas can also be used to separate listed items.

I need to get milk, bread, and butter at the store today.

  • A comma can separate an appositive (a noun, noun phrase, or noun clause that describe another noun in a different way).

The dog, a German Shepherd, loved her owner more than anything.

  • A comma is used for dates and addresses.

Her birthday is on May 8, 1997.

Sheldon Macdonald
 134 Stone Drive
 Amherst, Massachusetts

  • Commas are also helpful to avoid confusion.

My hobbies are cooking, dogs, and children vs. My hobbies are cooking dogs and children.



It is tempting to use commas, but be careful not to overuse them.

INCORRECT: I am going to have a sandwich, and a glass of milk.

CORRECT: I am going to have a sandwich and a glass of milk.

*The comma there is not necessary because there isn’t a need for a pause in the sentence. If there was a third item listed then the comma would be necessary.
Sources used: (MLA)
“Commas.” Grammar Book. 2016. Accessed 16 Sept. 2016.
Difference Between a Cat and a Comma? Quick Meme. Accessed 17 Sept. 2016
“Rules for Comma Usage.” The Guide to Grammar and Writing. Accessed 16 Sept. 2016.
Use a Comma. 2013. Meme Center. Accessed 17 Sept. 2016.
“What is an Appositive?” Grammar-Monster. Accessed Sept. 16 2016