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A run-on sentence has nothing to do with how long or short the sentence is. You've written a run-on sentence if you take two independent clauses and haven't connected them properly. Don't let those words "independent clause" scare you. All that means, is that it's a complete sentence. If you take two sentences and put them together to read as one sentence and you haven't connected them properly, you've written a "run-on sentence." Here's a short sentence that's a run-on sentence: “I came home I fixed supper.” The two independent clauses are: I came home. I fixed supper.
As you see, each of those sentences (independent clauses) is independent of the other; each is a complete thought. If you want to combine those two sentences, you need to do something to keep your writing clear and understandable. And this is where the trouble starts: If you connect them with a comma, you've written a run-on sentence; also called a comma splice. The verb "to splice" means 'to join'. When you join two ends of a rope to make it one whole piece, you're splicing (joining) the two pieces of rope. Another example is how we fix a broken cassette tape: if the tape breaks, we join (splice) the two parts of the tape together so that we can play the cassette again. In the example of the cassette tape, we have to use something to join those two broken pieces. We use a piece of adhesive tape to put together (splice) the two ends of the tape.
With sentences, the "something" we need to splice those two sentences can be a conjunction.
If you've studied the lesson Conjunctions on this website, you'll remember the word 'FANBOYS' we gave you to remember the conjunctions: for, and, not, but, or, yet, so. Let's look at the sentence again that we've used as an example of a comma splice: I came home, I fixed supper. We have a comma, but there isn't any conjunction. Here's the first rule to learn so that you don't write run-on sentences:
1. If you use a comma to join two independent clauses, you need to use a conjunction.
“I came home, and I fixed supper.” is a correct sentence. It's two independent clauses connected by a comma and a conjunction.
Other ways to correct run-on sentences are:
2. Use a semi-colon: “I came home; I fixed supper.”
3. Make two separate sentences: “I came home. I fixed supper.”
Here are other examples of run-on sentences, and the solutions with which to fix them:
1. The second clause gives an order based on something you wrote in the first clause.
"That sweater is made of pure wool, you need to dry clean it." That's a comma splice, again. We have a comma, but we don't have a conjunction. Here's how to fix the error, using one of the three rules you just learned:
That sweater is made of pure wool, so you need to dry clean it. (use a comma, followed by the conjunction so)
That sweater is made of pure wool; you need to dry clean it. (use just a semicolon)
That sweater is made of pure wool. You need to dry clean it. (two separate sentences; a period after the first one, and a capital letter to begin the second one.)
2. The two clauses are joined by a conjunctive adverb (words like: consequently, therefore, however)
"Sarah asked her whole family to dinner, consequently, she was cooking all day." That's another comma splice. There is a comma, but no conjunction. Here's how to fix the error:
Sarah asked her whole family to dinner; consequently, she was cooking all day. (just a semicolon)
Sarah asked her whole family to dinner. Consequently, she was cooking all day. (two separate sentences)
3. The second independent clause has a pronoun that is related to something in the first clause.
That movie was really awful, it had no plot. Those are two short independent clauses with related ideas, but it's still a run-on sentence. Here's how to fix the error:
That movie was really awful; it had no plot. (just a semicolon)
That movie was really awful. It had no plot. (two separate sentences)
Now, try your skill at fixing run-on sentences: Quiz
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