Talk Grammar to Me Tuesday: Run-On Sentences

Last week, we discussed comma splices.  Well, a run-on sentence is like a comma splice where you didn’t even bother to stop and insert a comma (or any other punctuation).

 

In order to subvert your penchant for run-on sentences, read your draft backwards, as is suggested in the section above concerning fragments.  As you move through each sentence, carefully look to see if there is more than one complete sentence between the capital letter and the end punctuation.  If there is, you can correct the error with the same tools you would use for a comma splice.  You can: correct conjunction (and a comma if needed), use a semi-colon and transitional phrase if needed, break the sentence into two or more sentences, or reword it so you have one complex sentence.

Run-On: I am glad I took math last semester it would be hard to have enough time to study for it this semester I have biology and speech which take a lot of my time.

Option 1: Correct it by breaking it into more than one sentence.

Read the example of a run-on again.  How many sentences (complete thoughts) did you find? Remember, you’re looking for a subject,  a verb, and the expression of a complete thought.  Can you believe there are three?  Here is how you could separate them into grammatically correct sentences:

I am glad I took math last semester. It would be hard to have enough time to study for it this semester. I have biology and speech which take a lot of my time.

Breaking run-ons apart this way is the most basic way to fix them.  However, it tends to sometimes make your writing choppy or to slow down the pace of your writing.

Other Options:

If we want to be a little smoother with the flow of our writing, we might use one of the other options for fixing a run on.  When choosing one, we would want to look at not just what would be grammatically correct, but what the sounds best.

Let’s look at using a semi-colon.

Image result for semi-colon humor

If we are going to do this we need two complete sentences on each side of it, and the sentences need to be discussing a related idea.  Therefore, we could say:

I am glad I took math last semester.  It would be hard to have enough time to study for it this semester; I have biology and speech which take a lot of my time.

We could also use a conjunction to join two of the sentences.  If we look at the usual suspects, the “FANBOYS,” there’s one option that would be grammatically correct.

Image result for fanboys

Wait…not those Fanboys…

Image result for fanboys

There. That’s more like it!

We could say:

I am glad I took math last semester. It would be hard to have enough time to study for it this semester for I have biology and speech which take a lot of my time.

However…when was the last time you heard anyone (except perhaps in The Great British Bake Off or other BBC show) talk like this?  Probably not very often. While what we hear in conversation isn’t always a good determining factor for what our academic writing should sound like, our writing should sound as though it is ours.  To help us do that we have another group of conjunctions besides the FANBOYS. We have their friends, the subordinating conjunctions. We use them all of the time even if we don’t know what they are called. Here’s a nice collection of them.

Image result for list of subordinating conjunctions

Try a few out.  Choose a word off the list and try to join two of the sentences in our example with it. Try another.  What did you find? To me, “because” jumps out as a good option.  We could use it in at least two different ways.  We could say:

I am glad I took math last semester because it would be hard to study enough for it this semester. I have biology and speech which take a lot of my time.

Or, we could say:

I am glad I took math last semester.  It would be hard to study enough for it this semester because I have biology and speech which take a lot of my time.

We could also rearrange the order of the original sentences and use it to join them like this:

Because I have biology and speech which take a lot of my time, I am glad I took math last semester. It would be hard to study enough for it this semester.

Remember, there are several different ways to fix a run-on sentence which are grammatically correct.  Deciding which one to use often depends on the particular problem you are trying to fix, what you want to emphasize, and matching the new sentences with the tone and style of those around them.  Keep practicing, and this like your other writing skills will become second nature to you.

 

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