The Rundown on Run-On Sentences

by | Nov 4, 2020 | Writing Tips | 0 comments

Conjunctions and punctuation marks are probably two of the most under appreciated elements of a sentence. In my own writing, I always (well, usually) notice when I’ve left a key word or idea out of a sentence. However, I sometimes overlook the words and punctuation that hold each sentence together, and I doubt that I’m the only writer who does. When these elements are misused or forgotten, sentences become run-on sentences, and the Grammar Gods become furious. Luckily, stripping your content writing of run-ons is easy once you know what to look for.

Fused Sentences

A fused sentence consists of two independent clauses that have been stuck together without any conjunctions or punctuation. If a sentence can be broken into two complete sentences with the addition of a period or semicolon, it’s a fused sentence. Splitting up the independent clauses is the easiest way to fix these sentences. You can also connect the clauses with a comma and conjunction, if this produces a logical new sentence.

  • Incorrect: I tell myself that I’ll stop procrastinating soon however, it never seems to happen.
  • Correct: I tell myself that I’ll stop procrastinating soon; however, it never seems to happen.
  • Correct: I tell myself that I’ll stop procrastinating soon. However, it never seems to happen.

Consider another fused sentence example:

  • Incorrect: She desperately needed a vacation she’d spent twice as much time working as sleeping during the last week.
  • Correct: She desperately needed a vacation, since she’d spent twice as much time working as sleeping during the last week.
  • Correct: She desperately needed a vacation. She’d spent twice as much time working as sleeping during the last week.

Comma Splices

Comma splices occur when commas are used to join independent clauses. You can correct this common error by placing a conjunction after the comma or by replacing the comma with a semicolon or period. To switch things up, you can sometimes use a subordinating conjunction, such as if, since or though, to make the first clause dependent.

  • Incorrect: His resolution to quit caffeine was an absolute failure, he was back at Starbucks ordering a double espresso within two days.
  • Correct: His resolution to quit caffeine was an absolute failure. He was back at Starbucks ordering a double espresso within two days.
  • Correct: His resolution to quit caffeine was an absolute failure; he was back at Starbucks ordering a double espresso within two days.

Can you spot why this next comma splice example is wrong?

  • Incorrect: It was nearly 4 a.m., she figured that she had binge-watched enough Netflix shows for one night.
  • Correct: As it was nearly 4 a.m., she figured that she had binge-watched enough Netflix shows for one night.
  • Correct: It was nearly 4 a.m., so she figured that she had binge-watched enough Netflix shows for one night.

Keeping Sentences Sound

When you’re weeding run-ons out of your writing, remember that length doesn’t make a sentence a run-on. Long-winded sentences can be grammatically correct, and the shortest sentences can be flawed. The surest way to identify run-ons is to check whether a sentence contains two distinct, improperly joined clauses.

Are there other common comma or sentence structure errors that you regularly come across? Let us know in the comments section!

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