PROOFREADING

Examples of Run-On Sentences and How to Fix Them

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Putting a Stop to Run-On Sentences

Arguably one of the most common mistakes in writing, a run-on sentence can make any piece of writing sound wordy and unprofessional. Run-on sentences can also be one of the hardest writing habits to stop since most people write the way they speak. There is hope, though! 

What is a Run-On Sentence?

By definition, a run-on sentence happens when two or more independent clauses come together without the appropriate punctuation (comma, period, semi-colon)  or conjunction (joining words like and, but, or). This just means that the run-on is actually a combination of two or more complete sentences. 

How to Identify Run-On Sentences in Your Writing

The single best way to find run-on sentences is to have another person read the text to you. The key is to read out loud and without pausing until hitting the punctuation marks. The run-on sentences become clear because the reader begins to run out of breath. (If you, as the writer, read the sentences aloud, you may read them as you think they should sound. So, try to have someone else read your writing to you.)

Fixing Run-On Sentences

Finding the run-ons, though, is only the first step. The confusing part about run-on sentences is that there are many ways to correct them. Below are some different ways to do so:

  1. Simply put a period at the end of the first clause and start a new sentence with the second clause. This method is preferred when there are more than two clauses, clauses are lengthy, or they have differing subjects and/or predicates.  
  2. Use a semicolon when the topic changes. Semicolons are useful when two clauses have the same or related subjects. Avoid using more than one semicolon per sentence, though, as it will get wordy and confusing.  
  3. Put a comma with a conjunction between two clauses. Using this method will help join two related ideas, and is especially helpful when describing events. 

The method chosen will depend upon a few factors, such as rhythm and tone. Asking some important questions will help to determine what editorial method should be used. For what type of tone does the piece call? Is the piece an academic paper, a blog post, or a formal or informal email? What tone is desired: academic/formal, informal, conversational, casual?

Remember that these are not definitive answers; it is up to the writer to decide which method sounds and fits best into the text. It also will take practice to learn what editorial methods work well in certain situations, so do not worry if it takes some time to get it right. Most writers – even seasoned writers – sometimes struggle with sentence structure; that's why they have editors!

Proofreading and Editing to Fix Run-On Sentences
Writing is an art.
Below are some examples of run-on sentences, complete with different ways to correct them. Remember that correcting run-on sentences right the first time is probably not going to happen. The corrections are underlined so that the fixes are easily visible.

*Please note that these examples are grammatically sound except for the run-on aspect; there are no other errors present. 

Examples of Run-on Sentences

These examples all come from the same paper, so continuity of theme may be apparent.

#1

Run-on: Writing fiction about September 11 is challenging and often controversial writing critically about September 11 in fiction comes with its own trials.

Correction with semicolon: Writing fiction about September 11 is challenging and often controversial; writing critically about September 11 in fiction comes with its own trials.

Correction with comma and conjunction: Writing fiction about September 11 is challenging and often controversial, and writing critically about September 11 in fiction comes with its own trials.

With this example, the semicolon correction sounds more academic, but the comma with conjunction "and" is also correct. 

Correcting Run-On Sentences in a Text
There are usually multiple options for resolving a run-on sentence.

#2

Run-on: In DeLillo’s 2007 novel Falling Man, the images and motifs of falling are pervasive, provocative, and, for the characters, often painful those images and motifs inspired the start of this project, which has developed greatly and widely since its inception.

Correction with a new sentence: In DeLillo’s 2007 novel Falling Man, the images and motifs of falling are pervasive, provocative, and, for the characters, often painful. Those images and motifs inspired the start of this project, which has developed greatly and widely since its inception.

Correction with a semicolon: In DeLillo’s 2007 novel Falling Man, the images and motifs of falling are pervasive, provocative, and, for the characters, often painful; such images and motifs inspired the start of this project, which has developed greatly and widely since its inception.

Again, both corrections are acceptable here. The difference is the pronoun usage. In the first correction, "those" is more appropriate because it is a new sentence and the writer is referring back to that sentence. In the second correction, the reader knows that the writer is referring to the same images and motifs because they are in the same sentence. 

#3

Run-on: Erikson specifically discusses collective trauma as a sociological concept he argues that collective trauma can either strengthen a community or destroy it in the Neudeckers’ case, September 11 brings the family together for a short while, but ultimately they fail to remain united.

This sentence actually needs two corrections, as there are three independent clauses.

Correction #1: Erikson specifically discusses collective trauma as a sociological concept. He argues that collective trauma can either strengthen a community or destroy it; in the Neudeckers’ case, September 11 brings the family together for a short while, but ultimately, they fail to remain united.

Correction #2: Erikson specifically discusses collective trauma as a sociological concept; he argues that collective trauma can either strengthen a community or destroy it. In the Neudeckers’ case, September 11 brings the family together for a short while, but ultimately, they fail to remain united.

Correction #3: Erikson specifically discusses collective trauma as a sociological concept, and he argues that collective trauma can either strengthen a community or destroy it. In the Neudeckers’ case, September 11 brings the family together for a short while, but ultimately, they fail to remain united.

Like the other two examples, all three corrections work here. The key is to decide which sounds the best for the genre being written. In this case, these examples come from a graduate student's literature review and either correction #1 or #2 would be appropriate, due to the use of the semicolon. 

Conclusion

While this is not a definitive guide to run-on sentences, it certainly will be useful to new and experienced writers alike. Remember to find the error, identify the audience and rhetorical situation, and choose the best method for correction. With practice, run-on sentences will soon disappear!


Post by Online English Editor.  

Online English Editor provides editing and proofreading services to academics, students and professionals.