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Run-on Sentences

Run-on Sentences

Author: Gavin McCall
Description:

This lesson discusses run-on sentences, including comma splices, and how to fix them.

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Welcome back to English Composition. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me. What are we going to learn today? We're going to learn all about run-on sentences. First we'll talk about sentences and their component parts, clauses. Then we'll learn about the two kinds of run-on sentences, fused sentences and comma splices. Then we'll both see and demonstrate several ways to fix these problem sentences.

As we should remember, all sentences must include a subject and a verb, and they often have an object as well, where the subject does the action of the verb, and the object is what the action is done to. This basic construction is known as an independent clause because it can stand alone as its own sentence. Many sentences also contain dependent clauses, which are phrases that do not stand alone as sentences, but provide other information within the sentence.

Sentences can contain more than one independent clause as well, so long as they're connected correctly. When they're not, well, that's the focus of this lesson. The term for what happens when independent clauses are not connected correctly within a sentence is a run-on sentence. They're called run-ons because they tend to run on and on without pausing, and more importantly, without clarifying the connections between the clauses.

There are two types of run-on sentences, fused sentences and comma splices. A fused sentence is a grammatically incorrect sentence, in which nothing separates two or more independent clauses, while a comma splice indicates a grammatically incorrect sentence in which a comma separates two or more independent clauses.

Essentially, the difference is that on the comma splice, the writer has incorrectly connected two independent clauses with only a comma, and in a fused sentence, the clauses are just mashed together with nothing to separate them. For example, the sentence, "Peppers are sometimes considered a vegetable this is incorrect," is a fused sentence. So are these. I ran away from the bullies they caught me anyway. And, The Tempest is Shakespeare's most interesting play many experts agree with me.

Now, compare them with this sentence, a comma splice. My husband and I read the same books, we like to discuss them as we read. There's not a huge difference, as you can probably see. Of the two forms of run-on sentences, comma splices are more common because it's often correct to separate an independent clause and a dependent clause with just a comma. So writers sometimes make the mistake of trying to do the same thing, but with two independent clauses that could each be its own sentence.

For example, look at these. There's no shame in defeat, shame can only come from quitting. And, saying Americans are lazy is an example of a stereotype, I know where this comes from. These are also comma splices.

Now that we know what these problem sentences are, what can we do about them? There are several ways a writer can fix run-on sentences. The first is to make two sentences, one out of each of the two independent clauses. For example, we can fix this sentence, The Tempest is Shakespeare's most interesting play many experts agree with me, by simply breaking its independent clauses apart. How about this? The Tempest is Shakespeare's most interesting play. Many experts agree with me.

Or this sentence. There's no shame in defeat, shame can only come from quitting, could become, there's no shame in defeat. Shame can only come from quitting.

The second strategy is to introduce a semicolon, replacing the incorrectly used comma. This sentence is an example. My husband and I read the same books, we like to discuss them as we read. It could become, my husband and I read the same books; we like to discuss them as we read. We can also use a semicolon and a conjunctive adverb, as in the sentence. I ran away from the bullies they caught me anyway. And now, corrected-- I ran away from the bullies; subsequently, they caught me anyway.

Another way to correct a run-on is to coordinate the clauses with a comma and a coordinating conjunction. Peppers are sometimes considered a vegetable this is incorrect, can become, peppers are sometimes considered a vegetable, but this is incorrect. And finally, we can add a subordinating conjunction to make one clause dependent on the other. For example, saying Americans are lazy is an example of a stereotype, I know where it comes from. We can change it to say, saying Americans are lazy is an example of a stereotype, although I know where it comes from.

It's now not only a grammatically correct sentence because the two clauses are linked correctly, it's also a better sentence because the reader can now see the connection between the ideas as well as the clauses. As you can see, run-on sentences can be trouble. But now that we know how to both recognize and fix them, our clauses should always be in order.

What did we learn today? We learned about run-on sentences, first by looking at what goes into a correctly built sentence and clause, and then by seeing examples of fused sentences and comma splices. And finally, we got to see different ways to fix them. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Comma Splice

    A grammatically incorrect sentence in which a comma separates two or more independent clauses.

  • Fused Sentence

    A grammatically incorrect sentence in which nothing separates two or more independent clauses.

  • Run-on Sentence

    Sentence that includes multiple independent clauses that are not connected correctly.