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Get Better Grammar: 'Run-on' Sentences

Updated: Apr 26


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Introduction - Get better grammar



In this article, I will teach you about a particular kind of error in writing.


It's called the run-on sentence.


Look at this recent Facebook post in which the person wrote:


"Hi I really need some help with my pool I’ve been you tubing but it’s not working and I’m not physically able to keep trying. I can’t work out how to vacuum it so any recommendations for a pool person or anyone willing to come and show me how to set it up please I am happy to pay for help."


It's difficult to read isn't it? And I have not tried to 'clean it up' to make it more readable.


You will notice that it seems to be one long sentence that runs on and on without stopping.


There are several complete sentences, but they are not joined in the right way.


These are called ‘run-on’ sentences and both kinds appear in the example above.



Two Types of Run-on Sentence


There are two kinds of ‘run-on’ sentences and they are:


1. fused sentences – there are no punctuation marks that mark the breaks between ideas.


For example:


“I can’t work out how to vacuum it so any recommendations for a pool person or anyone willing to come and show me how to set it up please I am happy to pay for help.”


2. comma splice – two complete ideas joined incorrectly by a comma.


For example:


“… I really need some help with my pool I’ve been you tubing but it’s not working and I’m not physically able to keep trying, I can’t work out how to vacuum it so…..”


Here is another example:


The Empire State Building is in New York City, it used to be one of the world’s tallest buildings.



How to correct run-ons?


There are four ways to correct both fused sentences and comma splices.


I will use the last example above to show each of the four ways to correct it.

1. Make two separate sentences by adding 'ending punctuation'

Choose:


a full stop/period, an exclamation mark or a question mark.


The Empire State Building is in New York City. It used to be one of the world’s tallest buildings.

2. Add a semicolon ( ; )

The Empire State Building is in New York City; it used to be one of the world’s tallest buildings.

3. Add a 'coordinating conjunction'

Choose from:


and, for, nor, or, but, so, or yet.


The Empire State Building is in New York City and it used to be one of the world’s tallest buildings.


(Note that not all coordinating conjunctions can be used; it depends on the context. ‘And’ seems to be the only one able to be used here to correct the error.)

4. Add a 'subordinating conjunction'

Choose from:


because, although, before, when, while, after, or since.


None of these, however, can be used to correct our example sentence. That is OK because the other three can.


So, let me give you another example sentence where you CAN add a subordinating conjunction.


Bill Gates was a poor university student, he went on to become one of the richest men in the world.


Note: If you were to type this in MS Word, you will see that a double blue line will appear under ‘student’. If you right click, the program will suggest a semi-colon. But we want to use a subordinating conjunction instead.


Bill Gates was a poor university student before he went on to become one of the richest men in the world.


Bill Gates was a poor university student after which he went on to become one of the richest men in the world.


(But that meant adding 'which' to 'after'; you cannot use 'after' on its own here).


So, you can see that not all subordinating conjunctions can be used to correct the sentence.


Only in some certain contexts. It means that you need to know the meanings of each of the conjunctions to use them the right way.



Transitional expressions and semicolons


Here is a final way to correct run-ons.


You can join sentences with a transitional expression by placing a semicolon before the expression. Then placing a comma after it.


Take this sentence for example. It is wrong. It has a comma splice.


The construction costs were too high, the family abandoned plans to build their new house.


And now, corrected:


The construction costs were too high; so, the family abandoned plans to build their new house.


Now, let us go back to that problematic Facebook post.


Hi I really need some help with my pool I’ve been you tubing but it’s not working and I’m not physically able to keep trying, I can’t work out how to vacuum it so any recommendations for a pool person or anyone willing to come and show me how to set it up please I am happy to pay for help.


And corrected:


Hi. I really need some help with my pool. I’ve been you tubing but it’s not working and I’m not physically able to keep trying. I can’t work out how to vacuum it. So, any recommendations for a pool person or anyone willing to come and show me how to set it up please? I am happy to pay for help.


This passage did not need very much to correct it.


The main errors were not ending sentences with full stops/question marks. And there was only one comma splice.



Check List for editing before submitting



Finally, a word or two when you are editing your writing.


My advice is to ask yourself these questions:


Are my sentences correctly formed and punctuated?


Have I written any sentences with fused sentences or comma splices – any ‘run-ons’?


The Facebook writer might have asked him/herself these two questions before posting.


Always think of your reader.



Conclusion


I hope you have enjoyed this article. And that you have learned something about ‘run-on’ sentences.


Also, knowing how to correct them will help you get better grammar into your written English.




Further Reading


Having good grammar should be an essential skill to getting good English.




And to go to read other informative articles on grammar you can click on this link to take you there.





© Apex English Tutoring Jan 2021 - Updated January 2024



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About Me


Hello and welcome!


My name is Michael Finemore and I am the owner-operator of Apex English Tutoring.


As an experienced English Teacher, I'm passionate about helping people turn their 'poor' English into great English, with easy and effective ways to practice.






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