Run-on sentence

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A run-on is a sentence in which two or more independent clauses (i.e., complete sentences) are joined without appropriate punctuation or conjunction. For example:

It is nearly half past five we cannot reach town before dark.[1]

Although this is generally considered a stylistic error, it is occasionally used in literature and may be used as a rhetorical device.

Prescriptive view[edit]

Run on sentences occur when two or more independent clauses are joined without using a coordinating conjunction (i.e., for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) or correct punctuation (i.e., semicolons, dashes, or periods). [2][3]

A run-on sentence can be as short as four words, for instance I drive she walks. In this case there are two subjects paired with two intransitive verbs. However, with correct punctuation a writer can assemble multiple independent clauses in a single sentence; a properly constructed sentence can be extended indefinitely.

While some sources view comma splices as a form of run-on sentence,[3] others limit the term to independent clauses that are joined without punctuation.[2][4]

Correction[edit]

There are several ways to correct a run-on sentence.

  • Change the comma to a semicolon or dash:
    • It is nearly half past five; we cannot reach town before dark.
    • It is nearly half past five—we cannot reach town before dark.
  • Write the two clauses as two separate sentences (Note: this may disconnect related independent clauses and cause some of the meaning to be lost):
    • It is nearly half past five. We cannot reach town before dark.
  • Insert a coordinating conjunction with a comma:
    • It is nearly half past five, so we cannot reach town before dark.
    • It is nearly half past five, and we cannot reach town before dark.
In British English, there would be no comma before the word and (i.e., It is nearly half past five and we cannot reach town before dark.)
  • Make one clause dependent on the other:
    • Because it is nearly half past five, we cannot reach town before dark.
    • It is nearly half past five, which means we cannot reach town before dark.

Literature[edit]

Despite the run-on sentence being generally considered grammatically incorrect, there are numerous examples of them being used in literature.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Examples adapted from the online, public-domain 1918 edition of The Elements of Style.
  2. ^ a b Berry, Chris; Brizee, Allen (2006-08-31). "Run-ons – Comma Splices – Fused Sentences". Retrieved 2008-01-24. 
  3. ^ a b "Run-on Sentences, Comma Splices". Retrieved 2008-01-24. 
  4. ^ Hairston, Maxine; Ruszkiewicz, John J.; Friend, Christy (1998). "The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers" (5th ed.). New York: Longman. p. 509.