By a Landslide … Fragments and Run-Ons

Oct 11, 2017

Guest Post by Jaclyn Dawn

My fellow writer/editor and friend Alison asked, “As an instructor, which grammar errors do you see most often?” The answer came easily: fragments and run-ons.

A sentence needs a subject and a predicate, an actor and an action.

      [Jaclyn] [teaches grammar.]

      [Grammar] [is important.]

If one or the other is missing, you have a fragment.

     [Jaclyn] does what?  

     What [is important]?

These examples are easy, but I will tell you how I trick my students on quizzes. I make the fragments long.

[The brilliant student in the front row who never thought she could be tricked].

I even tricked Microsoft Word with that example because the green, wiggly line didn’t appear under it. What did the brilliant student do?

        Maybe she [looked foolish.]

        Or perhaps she [caught the error.]

Here is another example.

[Singing high praises to the one student of thirty who caught  the error.]

Who? Who is singing the high praises?

            [Jaclyn] [is…] perhaps the one impressed in this example.

            But for all we know [The blue giraffe at the zoo] [is…]

If a sentence has a subject and a predicate, another subject and predicate, and perhaps another subject and predicate without proper punctuation, you have a run-on or the run-on’s cousin, the comma splice.

I like teaching communications and my students are usually eager to learn, but they don’t like grammar, the truth is I have a love-hate relationship with grammar, too.

An independent clause – a subject and a predicate/actor and action – must be divided from other independent clauses.

I like teaching communications. My students are usually eager to learn, but they don’t like grammar. The truth is I have a love-hate relationship with grammar, too.

My theory for why I see so many fragments and run-ons is that writers are trying to write how we speak. The problem is the result can be confusing and just plain ugly on the page.