Reining In Run-on Sentences
Another mistake in sentence construction is a run-on sentence. The term
Say what? Instead of having the needed punctuation between
It's Time to Take a Break: Fused Sentences and Comma Splices
One type of run-on, called a fused sentence, occurs when two or more sentences are written (fused) together without a punctuation mark to show readers where the break occurs. Take a look at this sentence:
This sentence has two separate thoughts:
This sentence needs some punctuation to tell readers where one thought ends and another begins. You may do this in one of three ways:
by creating two separate sentences
(For our annual picnic, Chris Doss and Brad Cummings brought hamburgers. We brought potato salad.)
by inserting a semicolon
(For our annual picnic, Chris Doss and Brad Cummings brought hamburgers; we brought potato salad.)
by inserting a comma and one of seven conjunctions —
but, or, yet, so, for, and, nor (remember boysfan?) ( For our annual picnic, Chris Doss and Brad Cummings brought hamburgers, and we brought potato salad.)
Remember that you must have two (or more) complete thoughts in order to correct a run-on sentence. Ask yourself if each group of words could stand alone (that is, could be a sentence by itself). If one group of words doesn't make sense as a sentence, then you don't have a complete thought.
Another type of run-on is a comma splice (comma fault), a sentence that has two complete thoughts that are joined (spliced together) by just a comma. The problem with a comma splice is that the comma should be replaced by something else — a different punctuation mark, additional words, or both. Take a look at this sentence:
On either side of the comma, you have a complete thought. The punctuation code says that you need something stronger than just a comma to help readers understand that a thought has been completed.
You have several choices to correct the sentence. You could create two separate sentences by using a period:
Another option is to separate the two complete thoughts with a semicolon:
A third choice is to separate the two complete thoughts with a semicolon and a connecting word or phrase:
Or you could join the two sentences by leaving in the comma but adding one of the seven
A comma splice frequently occurs with two quoted sentences, as in this example:
Katrina stated two separate sentences, so you should use either a period (preferable in this case) or a semicolon after said.
Another way you can correct either a fused sentence or a comma splice is to reword the sentence so that one part becomes subordinate (that is, it can't stand alone as a complete thought). Let's look at the first example:
You might reword this in a number of ways:
Yes, this one sounds really stuffy, and you probably wouldn't use it because of its style — but it does make sense.
Now look at the second example:
You could rewrite it in this way:
In each of these examples the first part of the rewritten sentence (the part before the comma) couldn't stand alone as a sentence.
Try the interactive quizzes on sentence fragments, run-ons, and comma splices at these Web sites:
In closing, keep in mind that a sentence doesn't become a run-on merely because of its length. Take a look at this sentence:
Although it is basically a nightmare to read (at 117 words, it should be broken into several sentences), it's properly punctuated and isn't a run-on. On either side of the semicolon there's just one complete thought.