What are Run-On Sentences?

I’m shocked at how many authors publish a book with run-on sentences. In fact, some authors have no idea what one is. If they did, surely they wouldn’t use them. Well...I'd like to think that. Then again some don't care, but that's a discussion for another time.

I was editing a book recently and at least once in every paragraph I had to point out a run on sentence. You might think I am exaggerating, but every paragraph had at least one run-on sentence that wasn't just a small one. Nope! These were two and three sentences combine incorrectly into one long and rambling sentence. I noted every one of them which left a ton of markings on the document. The author was very upset with me and declared they were good sentences and to leave them alone. Further talks had the author asking, “What is a run on that you keep talking about?” Seriously? You don’t know what one is? Then you shouldn’t be writing.

Well, maybe there are more who don’t realize what a run-on sentence is. I've seen evidence of it. Read a sample of a best seller. The first page was littered with them. Obviously, people don't know what one is.

Definition

According to Merriam Webster, a run-on sentence is “a sentence containing two or more clauses not connected by the correct conjunction or punctuation.” It does not have the proper structure and is too many sentences meshed into one. In fact, it can have your head spinning as you try to read it. Technically even a compound sentence without the right comma is a run-on.

In other words, run-on sentences are a pain in the rear. They are sentences trying to say too much instead of letting parts of it stand alone with pride as it should or without the proper 'dressing' as in punctuation.


Example

Sometimes the best way to understand is to see an example. Here’s one I’ve made up:

Linda picked up the dishes to put in the sink took the broom with her to mop the floor after dinner she wanted to get it all done quickly.

Notice how there is way too much in this sentence…. As a reader, I’m overwhelmed. I have to read it more than once to figure out what is trying to be said. That is something you never want to do as a writer – confuse the reader. Your sentences…shouldn’t be so dangerous.

Note: This run-on is very similar to one I have read elsewhere.

This is another example:

I wanted to have the red couch put in the living room but he wanted the blue one.


This technically is a run-on because the comma is not present before 'but'. It's two sentences combined incorrectly.

Dangers

Run-on sentences can be dangerous. For one thing, they can turn a reader off, WAY OFF! Usually the reader has to read the sentence multiple times to figure out what is being said. Too many of these in a book will have a reader not finishing it. They'll put it down and walk away. You don’t want that. You want a reader to finish your book to know how it ends. They might find it not worth it if you have so many run-on sentences.

These sentences can also be confusing. The wrong message might be delivered. You want your words to be clear and perfectly understood. If you want the reader to get the idea that the hero is wanting to save the heroine, run-on sentences could have the reader thinking he doesn’t care about her. You need to be clear with your writing.


How to Correct

So how do you correct these run away sentences? Either break them into multiple sentences or add correct punctuation.

A complete sentence has a subject (noun) and a verb. There might be appropriate adjectives, adverbs, and clauses.

John went to the store bought eggs and milk.

You can correct this a couple of ways:

John went to the store and bought eggs and milk.

John went to the store. He bought eggs and milk.

John went to the store where he bought eggs and milk.

John went to the store, and he bought eggs and milk.


There are even more ways we could handle this, but these are the simple fixes to make the run-on correct.

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