Citation Guide Cliches Commas
Introductions Non-sexist Writing Guide Passive Voice
Peer Editing Avoid Plagiarism Proofreading
Prospectus Punctuation Quotations

 

Punctuation

(The Four Cardinal Sins of Punctuation)

1. The Sentence Fragment: is a group of words not expressing a complete thought but written and punctuated like a complete sentence.

EXAMPLES:
a. The double-decker ice cream cone dripping down the child's chin and shirt.
b. To be so pretty like Shirley in her new, pressed polyester pants.

THE SOLUTION:
A fragment is a phrase that lacks a subject or a verb. Convert the fragment into a clause by adding a subject and verb.

a. The double-decker ice cream is slowly dripping down the child's chin.
b. To be so pretty like Shirley in her new, pressed polyester pants is my goal.

2. Semicolon Sentence Fragment: With very few exceptions, one must have a main clause before and after a semicolon. Failure to do so constitutes a semicolon sentence fragment.

EXAMPLES:
a. Sherman wants that doggy in the window; the fluffy one.
b. Poor little Amy was blown by the wind; arms flailing everywhere.

THE SOLUTION:
Remember that a main clause is a group of words with both a subject and a verb that expresses a complete thought and can stand alone as a complete sentence. Place a semicolon only between main clauses.

a. Sherman wants that doggy in the window; he is pointing to the fluffy one.
b. Poor little Amy was blown by the wind; her arms were flailing everywhere.

3. The Comma Splice: occurs when two main clauses are separated only with a comma but without the aid of a short coordinate conjunction.

EXAMPLES:
a. The basketball team is playing tonight, I hope they win.
b. I would have gone with him to the party, he was just too drunk.

THE SOLUTION:
Learn to use the six short coordinate conjunctions: and, but, or, nor, so, yet. These conjunctions can join coordinate (grammatically equal) words, phrases, subordinate clauses, and main clauses.

a. The basketball team is playing tonight, and I hope they win.
b. I would have gone with him to the party, but he was just too drunk.

4. Run-on Sentence: occurs when two main clauses are neither joined by a short coordinate conjunction nor separated with a comma--one clause literally runs on into the next.

EXAMPLES:
a. The rain beat down on the sidewalk wind blew fiercely.
b. After the explanation I understood everything consequently I felt much better.

THE SOLUTION:
Learn to recognize main clauses--look for subject/verb combinations within each sentence. Separate main clauses with a semicolon, OR a short coordinate conjunction preceded by a comma, OR a long coordinate conjunction preceded by a semicolon and followed by a comma. Long coordinate conjunctions include: accordingly, besides, consequently, furthermore, therefore, for example, however, instead, in addition to, likewise, moreover, nevertheless, in fact, that is, otherwise, on the other hand, on the contrary, thus, etc.

a. The rain beat down on the sidewalk; wind blew fiercely.
b. After the explanation I understood everything; consequently, I felt much better.