Proofread Old Variable

Proofreading is similar to putting on the trim and other final touches during house building. It consists of checking for—

  • Fragments
  • Run-ons
  • Spelling errors
  • Unanswered major hidden questions


In the nineteenth century, grammar theory insisted that sentences are complete thoughts. Most students and grammar teachers still believe that.

Task 5.18.1 – Individual or Tandem

What information is missing in the following?

  1. He was there.
  2. It’s time.
  3. She lives in the house down the street.
  4. What was that?
  5. I know.

Which of the above are sentences? Which are fragments?

Task 5.18.2 – Individual or Tandem

  1. There he is.
  2. When the team played
  3. If she arrives today.
  4. Because school is closed today.
  5. She lives.

Which of the above are sentences? Which are fragments?


Syntax comes from the Greek word for coordination, which consists of together and ordering. It refers to coordination in language, not the body.

Watched up sun I come mountain the behind from the are words we all know, but they are as uncoordinated as a marionette whose pieces were strung up at random. They sound wrong together.

Sentences and sense come from sensus, Latin for “a faculty for feeling, thought, or meaning.”  But even if we know words’ meanings, they mean nothing without a syntax people are used to.

Sentences are strings of words that sound fine to us even if we do not know their meanings. Fragments are strings of words that sound “funny,” meaning “odd.” They do not refer to strings of words with information left out.  All sentences and fragments have information left out.

For further explanation, see Lesson 4.14 in Chapter Four. 

Sentence Busters

If you have a sentence that starts with any of the words below, then it’s probably a fragment.

  • After
  • Although/Though
  • Because/Since
  • Before
  • If
  • In order to
  • So that
  • Unless
  • Until
  • When/Whenever
  • Where/Whereas
  • While

Task 5.18.3 – Tandem

  1. Have two copies of what you wrote for Variable 1 of your Billy Mills Variable 1.
  2. Read it aloud to your partner. They will checkmark by any sentence that sounds “funny.”
  3. Discuss the results with your partner.
  4. Do the same for the partner’s Variable 1.
  5. If you and your partner wrote Variable 1 together, then do steps 1-3 with two other members of a small group.

Review: The Fragment Formula

To help you understand how to fix fragments, memorize the following if you haven’t already:

S + F = comma or no punctuation
When in doubt, leave commas out

S + F

Usually, fixing a fragment involves adding that breath unit to a sentence.

  • If you add a fragment to a sentence and do not take a breath or otherwise change tone, then there is no punctuation.

Because I forgot my wallet

I could not get into the concert

I could not get into the concert because I forgot my wallet.

  • If you add a fragment to a sentence and take a breath or change tone, then insert a comma.

Because I forgot my wallet

I could not get into the concert

Because I forgot my wallet, I could not get into the concert.


If you are unsure if you need a comma, leave it out.  Commas slow down reading, and incorrectly placed commas cause readers to read awkwardly, with lots of unnecessary breaths. 

A comma connects sentences and fragments unless there is no breath or change of tone of voice. Commas therefore indicate a breath or other change of tone. 

Task 5.18.2 – Individual or Tandem

On the following—

  • See if frontloading is needed.
  • See if commas are needed.
  • See if fragments need to be combined with sentences.
  1. Because she was good with her hands Teresa loved shop class.
  2. She loved shop class because she could sell what she made.
  3. Teresa and her sister carried the table all the way home which was two miles from school.
  4. Teresa made a stunning table in shop class although no one appreciated it.
  5. Teresa took a taxi to the craft competition finale last evening.
  6. Teresa was selected for the city’s craft competition. Which took place the end of November.


When two sentences are run together, it is called a run-on sentence.  There are two types. Both are errors:

S S       This refers to two sentences run together with no punctuation.

S, S      This refers to two sentences run together with a comma.

Fixing Run-One Sentences

The easiest way to fix run-on sentences is to avoid them in the first place:

  1. Write SHORT sentences (but not fragments).
  2. Read your material aloud. If two sentences are joined with no punctuation, then separate them into two sentences. Or else rewrite.
  3. Repeat step 2 if two sentences are joined with a comma.
  4. Do not use semi-colons. Most professional writers avoid them.  


Review Lesson 4.13 regarding spelling.

Task 5.18.3 – Individual or Tandem

Go through Variable 1 of your essay on Billy Mills. Fix problems involves run-ons and spelling.