Writing In Complete (or Incomplete) Sentences

WRITTEN May 12, 2015 Author: Rich Atkins

Fragments and Run-Ons and Errors – Oh My!

Writing In Complete–or Incomplete Sentences? To be sure any one sentence you write is correct and complete, ask yourself, “Is it understandable out of context?” (In other words, if you stated only the sentence out loud to someone, would it make sense? If it does, then it’s probably complete.) Use complete sentences in your writing. They’re easy to read, and will be clear for your audience.

A sentence fragment is an incomplete sentence, usually lacking either a subject or a verb.  

Fragment: The ringing telephone.

Complete: The ringing telephone startled the customer.

Fragment: Driving all night.

Complete: Loretta stayed up, driving all night.

Complete sentences express complete thoughts.


The policies on the desk… (incomplete)

The policies are on the desk. (complete)

Because of increased sales. (incomplete)

Because of increased sales, we will hire more salespeople. (complete)

Run-on Sentences

A run-on sentence contains two or more independent thoughts not separated by any punctuation. To correct a run-on sentence, simply take each complete thought, and end each with a period.

Run-on (incorrect): The parts should be the same we can always have John check the serial numbers.

In that sentence, you can see that there are two separate ideas, but no punctuation to separate them. This is easily fixable by adding a period after “same” and starting “we” with a capital letter.

Fixing Run-on Sentences

RUN-ON: Edwin went home no one told the team leader that he was leaving.

  • Create two or more sentences.

Edwin went home. No one told the team leader that he was leaving.

  • Add a semicolon between the clauses.

Edwin went home; no one told the team leader that he was leaving.

  • Add a comma, then a conjunction after the first independent clause.

Edwin went home, and no one told the team leader that he was leaving.

  • Add a subordinating conjunction to one of the clauses.

Edwin went home, although no one told the team leader that he was leaving.

When you are writing, run-on sentences and sentence fragments are very easy mistakes to make. Thankfully, they are just as easy to fix. If you are not sure whether there is a problem, ask yourself this very important question.

Does this sentence express a complete thought?

If it does not express a complete thought – add something that finishes the unanswered question. If it is a complete thought, make sure that it isn’t connected to another separate thought with a comma (use a period or a semi-colon instead).

Communication is important. Whether it is an e-mail, a letter, or a report, it is up to you to present your thoughts and ideas clearly and precisely. Write in complete sentences to ensure that you communicate clearly so that your reader will understand what you are saying.

This information is referenced in our Business Writing classes. If you’re looking for ways to improve your communication skills, register for one of our public classes.
Photo courtesy of c_kc_k.

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