These days I see a lot of sentence fragments starting with "while."

Check out this pair of sentences I found recently in an essay about the best place to raise children:

"While children who live in cities can access a great number of museums, libraries and other academic facilities.  Children in the countryside cannot easily visit places like these."

The part in bold is a sentence fragment.  It is necessary to join these two sentences.  Here's the correct version:

"While children who live in cities can access a great number of museums, libraries and other academic facilities, children in the countryside cannot easily visit places like these."

What is the grammatical problem?

"While" is called a subordinating conjunction. When used at the beginning of a sentence "while" creates a dependent clause, which means that more information (contained in an independent clause) is always required.  Here are a few more incorrect sentences:

"While cats enjoy eating tuna."
"While online advertisements are very cheap."
"While my mother usually drives to work."

Those are incorrect because they consist only of a dependent clause.

Here are corrected versions which include the required independent clause (in red):

"While cats enjoy eating tuna, dogs prefer to eat pork."
"While online advertisements are very cheap, television commercials are usually expensive."
"While my mother usually drives to work, my father prefers to walk."

The same problem exists when sentences begin with other subordinating conjunctions.  These are all wrong:

"Although it was very expensive."

"Even though I was extremely hungry."

"Before I met you that evening." 

Here are correct versions:

"Although it was very expensive, I bought it right away." 

"Even though I was extremely hungry, I decided to stick to my diet." 

"Before I met you that evening, I thought I would always be alone." 

 

Avoiding More Mistakes

"While" is not the only subordinate conjunction. Be aware of sentences that begin with other subordinate conjunctions and ensure that you provide all of the information that is required.  Here's a big list:

  • after
  • although
  • as
  • because
  • before
  • even if
  • even though
  • if
  • provided that
  • rather than
  • since
  • so that
  • than
  • that
  • though
  • unless
  • until
  • when
  • whenever
  • where
  • whereas
  • wherever
  • whether
  • while
  • why