Run-On Sentences at Length

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What are they?

Run-on sentences are sentences that are not properly punctuated to establish the break between two complete ideas, or independent sentences, which can stand alone. If you are like many people, you might assume that run-on sentences are usually very long, convoluted sentences. This assumption is not true. Even short sentences are sometimes run-on ones. Likewise, sometimes very long, complicated sentences are not run-on ones, even if they are confusing. This fusion of sentences, regardless of their length, is sometimes referred to as a sentence fuse. Comma splices are also run-on sentences, but they are created when a coordinating conjunction is missing behind the comma that creates the error.

Recognizing run-on sentences

To recognize run-on sentences, you must first have a solid understanding of what constitutes a complete sentence in the first place. An independent sentence consists of three essential parts: a subject, a verb and a complete idea. It is possible to have a subject and a verb without forming a complete idea, so make sure you know the difference. While it is okay to combine two complete ideas, you must do so in a grammatically acceptable fashion. Consider the below examples:

Example 1: Correctly combining sentences is a skill that boosts your readers’ confidence in your abilities.

Example 2: The act of combining sentences correctly takes skill this skill increases how much faith readers place in your knowledge.

In the first example, there is one subject (correctly combining sentences), one verb (the linking verb “is”) and one complete idea, making the sentence only one complete and grammatically correct sentence. However, the second example contains two subjects (the act of combining sentences correctly, skill the second time is is used), two verbs (takes, increases) and two complete ideas, making it a run-on sentence.

Correcting run-on sentences

You can correct run-on sentences by using the appropriate sentence-ending punctuation to create two sentences, adding a comma and coordinating conjunction, using a semicolon by itself or using a semicolon with a transitional word followed by a comma. See the run-on sentences below and the ways to make them grammatically correct.

Example run-on sentences:

  • You cannot fly birds can fly.
  • You can appear as a stronger writer with properly punctuated sentences lacking the ability to write grammatically sound pieces makes you seem incompetent to your readers.

To correct these run-on sentences, do one of the following:

Separate the sentences

You cannot fly. Birds can fly.

You can appear as a stronger writer with properly punctuated sentences. Lacking the ability to write grammatically sound pieces makes you seem incompetent to your readers.

Add a comma and coordinating conjunction

You cannot fly, but birds can fly.

You can appear as a stronger writer with properly punctuated sentences, and lacking the ability to write grammatically sound pieces makes you seem incompetent to your readers.

Use a semicolon:

You cannot fly; birds can fly.

You can appear as a stronger writer with properly punctuated sentences; lacking the ability to write grammatically sound pieces makes you seem incompetent to your readers.

Use a semicolon and transitional word/phrase

You cannot fly; however, birds can fly.

You can appear as a stronger writer with properly punctuated sentences; in fact, lacking the ability to write grammatically sound pieces makes you seem incompetent to your readers.