Debbie Notari received her Bachelor’s degree in English and M.S. in Education Literacy and Learning for Grades 6-12. Debbie has over 28 years of teaching experience, teaching a variety of grades for courses like English, Reading, Music, and more.
What Is a Faulty Sentence?
A faulty sentence is a sentence that is deficient in one way or another. When we read it, something sounds incomplete or wrong. We may have difficulty understanding exactly what the writer is trying to say. For this reason, it is really important for writers to use sentences that are both clear and grammatically correct. Writing is for communication, and if the sentences are not communicating what the writer intends, there is a problem that needs to be fixed.
What Is a Good Sentence?
A complete sentence contains both a subject (noun) and a verb (that subject's action). If a sentence is missing either of these essential parts, we have a problem. A complete sentence is a complete thought. If the thought is not complete, neither is the sentence. Also, good sentences are clear and fairly to the point. When we read good sentences, we understand what the writer is trying to communicate.
The first faulty sentence we will examine is the sentence fragment. A fragment is, by definition, a piece of something. Even very long sentences can be sentence fragments if they don't express a complete idea. Here are some examples.
'To the store.' Okay. When we read this sentence, we may ask, 'Who went to the store, and what did they do there?' This sentence is missing a subject and a verb, the two most essential parts of a sentence. It is a fragment. To make this sentence work, we must add a subject and a verb. Here is a better sentence: 'Mrs. Jones walked to the store.'
A second sentence fragment might read, 'Speedily raced down the track.' This sentence is missing a subject. A subject is always a noun - a person, place, thing or idea - and every sentence must have one. We find ourselves asking, 'Who raced down the track?' To fix this sentence, we need to add a noun, and the corrected sentence might read, 'The track star speedily raced down the track.'
The final type of sentence fragment is missing a verb, or action. For instance, if we say, 'Tina at the school,' we definitely want to know what Tina did at the school. To fix this type of faulty sentence, we need to add a verb. Saying, 'Tina ate bananas at the school,' would turn this fragment into a complete sentence.
All sentences have stopping points. Unfortunately, some writers like to string their ideas along with the overuse of conjunctions. Conjunctions are words that act like the links between boxcars on trains. The conjunctions we use between words and sentences are: and, but, or, nor, for, so and yet. When linking sentences together, the rule is that we may only use one conjunction. Then, the sentence must be stopped or creatively reworked before the writer continues on to the next sentence.
Here is an example of a run-on sentence: 'My best friend, Janet, needed to get a new job, so she applied for 15 jobs on the Internet, but she only got one call for an interview, but it wasn't her first choice, so she didn't know what to do, but she went to the interview anyway and was pleasantly surprised by the friendly atmosphere in that particular office.' As you can see, this sentence goes on and on. Let's fix it. 'My best friend, Janet, needed to get a new job, so she applied for 15 jobs on the Internet.' Notice that we stop here. We used up our one-conjunction-between-sentences allowance. 'She only got one call for an interview, but it wasn't her first choice. She didn't know what to do, but she went to the interview, anyway. Janet was pleasantly surprised by the friendly atmosphere in that particular office.' Take a look at the stopping points. If a sentence begins to sound like a 12-year old talking on her first cell phone, it probably qualifies as a run-on.
There are a few other ways to fix run-ons. Two sentences that are closely related may be joined together with a semicolon. For instance, one might say, 'My cousin came from Greece; he loves to cook Mediterranean foods.' These thoughts are closely related. You wouldn't want to say something like: 'Turtles are fascinating creatures; let's go to Las Vegas.' You get the idea.
Finally, as seen in the 'Janet' sentence above, sometimes it is just good to stop the sentence with a period, and then start again with a new sentence.
The Importance of Clarity
It is always best to be as clear as possible when writing a sentence. Faulty sentences are sometimes complete, but not very clear. Yes, they have both a subject and a verb, but if we find ourselves asking: 'What in the world did that mean?' after reading a sentence, the sentence definitely needs reworking.
It is better to be simple and clear rather than to use complicated words that are confusing to the reader. Beginning writers sometimes make this mistake, thinking that by using large words, the sentence will be more sophisticated. Never sacrifice clarity for complication.
Let's review. A faulty sentence is a sentence that is deficient in one way or another. When we read it, something sounds incomplete or wrong. Common types of faulty sentences include the sentence fragment, which is incomplete because it lacks a key part of the sentence; the run-on sentence, which contains too many conjunctions and rambles on; and the overly complex sentence, which sacrifices clarity for using complex words. A complete sentence contains both a subject and a verb, is a complete thought and is clear and fairly to the point.
Learning to write both complete and clear sentences is an art that requires practice and revision. We have to approach our sentences with a critical eye and be willing to rewrite them if necessary. This is how our writing will improve.
When you're finished with the lesson, you should be able to:
- Explain what a faulty sentence is
- Describe what a complete sentence contains
- Recognize examples of sentence fragments
- Identify run-on sentences
- Understand the importance of clear writing
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