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Fragments, Splices, and Run-Ons

I. What is a fragment?

A fragment is an incomplete thought which cannot stand alone. To fix a fragment, you may
  1. attach the fragment to a complete thought, or
  2. eliminate the subordinator.
  Incorrect Correct
Example 1 If there is some coffee. If there is some coffee, I would like a cup.
Example 2 Because he needed a car. He needed a car.


II. What is a comma splice?

A comma splice is a sentence containing two complete thoughts joined together by a comma (without a conjunction). For correct punctuation, note the following pattern:

Complete thought [, and] complete thought.

If you have a comma and no conjunction, you have a comma splice.

  Incorrect Correct
Example 1 Sara was hungry, she ate an apple. Sara was hungry, so she ate an apple.
Example 2 Larry likes Sue, Sue likes Larry. Larry likes Sue, and Sue likes Larry.


III. What is a run-on?

A run-on is a sentence containing two complete thoughts joined together by a conjunction only (without a comma). For correct punctuation, note the following pattern:

Complete thought [, and] complete thought.

If you have a conjunction and no comma, you have a run-on.

Example 1
Incorrect Minh did not understand our language and he was unfamiliar with our customs.
Correct Minh did not understand our language, and he was unfamiliar with our customs.
Example 2
Incorrect Larry likes to swim and he does it frequently throughout the week.
Correct Larry likes to swim, and he does it frequently throughout the week.


Comma splice and fragment errors are serious punctuation problems; however, run-on errors are so common that often they are not marked by instructors.

If you have any questions, please call 425.640.1750.