Run-on sentences

A run-on sentence is not simply a sentence that is too long. Rather, it is a sentence in which two or more independent clauses are fused together without the proper punctuation or conjunctions needed to hold them together in a grammatically correct way. There are many types of run-ons. We’ll cover the three most common. 

1. Comma splices

A run-on sentence with a comma splice consists of two independent clauses separated by a comma and missing a conjunction—for example:

I need a new TV, mine’s broken.

The movie was good, the special effects were awesome.

These could be corrected in a number of ways. The two clauses could be made separate sentences:

I need a new TV. Mine’s broken.

The writer could replace the comma with a semicolon:

The movie was good; the special effects were awesome.

An em-dash can do the same thing:

I need a new TV—mine’s broken.

With a subordinating conjunction, one clause could become dependent on the other:

Because the special effects were awesome, the movie was good.

Or the writer could link them with a coordinating conjunction:

My TV’s broken, so I need a new one.

2. Two sentences crammed together

Other run-on sentences consist of two independent clauses crammed together with no punctuation—for example:

Let’s go it’s getting hot.

All the comma splice solutions apply here as well:

Let’s go. It’s getting hot.

Let’s go; it’s getting hot.

Let’s go—it’s getting hot.

Since it’s getting hot, let’s go.

It’s getting hot, so let’s go.

3. Conjunction misuse

Another common type of run-on sentence involves misuse of conjunctions, especially however, often with a comma splicefor example:

I have kits to assemble, however, I have no bags.

Here, there’s a comma splice after I have kits to assemble. This common error probably results from confusion with perfectly acceptable constructions like this:

Over many years of jurisprudence, however, the Supreme Court has ruled that most of the rights protected in the Bill of Rights also apply to the states. [SCOTUS Blog]

This however works because it functions adverbially (here it is synonymous with though). The however in the first example is a coordinating conjunction, so its clause should be treated as independent.

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