How do I avoid using run on sentences?

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Answered by: William, An Expert in the Grammar and Composition - General Category
A run on sentence is a sentence that runs on and runs on and runs on without an end, or maybe even a meaning, in sight. Technically, a run on sentence, or a fused sentence, is a sentence where two independent clauses have been joined together without the proper punctuation. So, a sentence can be long as long as it uses the right punctuation. However, if proper punctuation is not used, the sentence is said to run on and run on as if it needs the punctuation to stop the run on sentence madness and put all the parts in their proper place.

Key to avoiding a run on sentence and punctuating the sentence properly is identifying the independent clauses. An independent clause can be its very own sentence; all it needs is a subject, a verb, and a complete thought. These sentences are everywhere, but they can be short and do not have enough space for everything that a person is trying to say. It is also a good idea to use different sentence structures and lengths to keep the reader interested. When sentences start to grow beyond their one independent clause, they have the potential to be a run on sentence. Remember, a run on sentence is a rambling sentence without proper punctuation.

So, when looking for a run on sentence, a very long sentence might be a tip off. Break the run on sentence into independent parts. If all those parts are complete sentences, just place a period at the end of each. That is the first way to correct a run on sentence: Add a period to make independent sentences.

The next way to correct a run on sentence is to use a comma (,) and a coordinating conjunction. Key to this fix is to place a comma where the period would go and then use the correct coordinating conjunction that fits the meaning of the sentence. There are eight coordinating conjunctions: and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet. A good way to remember them is with the acronym FANBOYS or For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So. By using a comma and a coordinating conjunction, the sentence can be nice and long, but it will be punctuated correctly and not run on and run on forever.

The second way to avoid a run on sentence is to use a semi colon (;) in the spot where the period or comma would go at the end of the independent clause. The semicolon is strong enough to join two independent sentences together without it being a run on. However, a comma is not strong enough to join these sentences together. This error is called comma splice; the comma needs to be used with the coordinating conjunction. A semicolon can join two independent sentences together; it provides for a long sentence without it being a run on sentence.

Often when a semicolon is used, there is a conjunctive adverb used as well, such as the word “however.” The sentence will be long; however, it will be punctuated properly, and it will not be a run on sentence!

Look through this passage and look for the long sentences that use a comma and a coordinating conjunction or a semicolon to join them together and avoid being a run on sentence.

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