Tip 5

Tip 5: Incoherent Sentence: Fragments, Misplaced or Dangling Modifiers, Faulty Predication

Sentence Fragment


A fragment is a group of words that is punctuated like a sentence and looks like a sentence but is not a sentence.


Checking for Sentence Fragments

  • Check to see if the “sentence” needs a subject.
  • Check to see if the “sentence” needs a verb.
  • Check to see if the “sentence” needs both a subject and a verb.
  • Check to see if the “sentence” is a dependent clause.

Modifiers

Misplaced Modifiers

Misplaced modifiers are words that, because of awkward placement, do not describe what the writer intended them to describe. A misplaced modifier can make a sentence confusing or unintentionally funny. To avoid misplaced modifiers, place words as close as possible to what they describe.

  • Misplaced modifier example: He served pancakes to the children on paper plates. (Were the children on paper plates?)
  • Correct: He served the children pancakes on paper plates.
  • Misplaced modifier example: I saw a rabbit and a raccoon on the way to the airport. (Were the rabbit and the raccoon on the way to the airport?)
  • Correct: On the way to the airport, I saw a rabbit and a raccoon.
  • Misplaced modifier example: He nearly brushed his teeth for ten minutes every night. (Did he come close to brushing his teeth but in fact did not brush them at all?)
  • Correct: He brushed his teeth for nearly ten minutes every night.

Note: Words like almost, even, exactly, hardly, just, merely, nearly, only, scarcely, and simply should come immediately before the word they modify.
The following sentences have different meanings because of the placement of only.

  • Only Mr. Brown offered me thirty dollars to mow his lawn. (Mr. Brown was the only person to offer thirty dollars. No one else offered thirty dollars.)
  • Mr. Brown only offered me thirty dollars to mow his lawn. (Mr. Brown offered, but he did not pay thirty dollars.)
  • Mr. Brown offered me only thirty dollars to mow his lawn. (Mr. Brown offered thirty dollars, but I was expecting forty dollars.)

Dangling Modifiers

A dangling modifier is a modifier that does not relate sensibly to any word in the sentence. A modifier that begins a sentence must be followed immediately by the word it is meant to describe. Otherwise, the modifier is said to be dangling, and the sentence takes on an unintended meaning.

  • Dangling modifier example: While reading a magazine, my cat sat with me on the porch swing. (Was the cat reading the magazine?)
  • Correct: While I was reading a magazine, my cat sat with me on the porch swing.
  • Correct: While reading a magazine, I sat with my cat on the porch swing.
  • Dangling modifier example: Asked to join the club, we were disappointed by his refusal. (Who was asked to join the club?)
  • Correct: Asked to join the club, he disappointed us because he refused.
  • Correct: When he was asked to join the club, we were disappointed that he refused.

Faulty Predication


Faulty predication occurs when the subject and the verb do not make sense together. In other words, the subject can’t “be” or “do” the verb. (A predicate is the part of the sentence or clause, including the verb, that expresses what the subject is or does.)

  • Faulty predication example: The purpose of movies was invented to entertain people. (The purpose was not invented. Movies were invented.)
  • Correct: The purpose of movies is to entertain people.
  • Correct: Movies were invented to entertain people.

Faulty predication can also occur when a writer uses the construction is when or is where. Definitions require nouns on both sides of verbs that are forms of be.

  • Faulty predication example: A waterspout is when a tornado is over water. (A waterspout is not a time.)
  • Correct: A waterspout is a tornado occurring over water.
  • Faulty predication example: Anorexia nervosa is where individuals refuse to eat and gradually starve themselves to death. (Anorexia is not a place.)
  • Correct: Anorexia nervosa is a disorder suffered by individuals who refuse to eat and gradually starve themselves to death.

The construction the reason is because… is redundant. Because means for the reason that, so the reason is because means the reason is for the reason that.

  • Faulty predication example: The reason for low sales is because prices are too high.
  • Correct: The reason for low sales is that prices are too high.
  • Correct: Sales are low because prices are too high.

Prepositional phrases cannot be the subject of a sentence.

  • Faulty predication example: In the glacier’s retreat created a valley.
  • Correct: The glacier’s retreat created a valley.

Incoherent Sentences Exercise
Incoherent Sentences Excercise Answers

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