Grammar 6 min read

Run-on Sentence: What is it and how to fix it

Main Takeaways:

  • Run-on sentences contain two or more independent clauses that aren’t properly separated and/or punctuated.
  • Comma splices, fused sentences, and polysyndeton are the three types of run-on sentences.
  • To identify a run-on sentence, look for multiple complete thoughts that aren’t properly separated.

Sometimes our brains work faster than our fingers. The result is often a jumble of thoughts that run together. In writing, we call these run-on sentences. If you want to know more about these sentences and how to fix them, we’ve got you covered.

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What is a Run-on Sentence?

Whether you call it a run-on sentence, or just a hot mess, a sentence without proper punctuation can be downright confusing. When your audience can’t understand your writing, your meaning is inevitably lost. The good news is that it’s remarkably easy to turn a run-on into a grammatical masterpiece.

But first, a definition.

Run-on sentences contain two or more independent clauses that aren’t separated by a period or properly joined using a conjunction. In other words, it’s a mash-up of two complete thoughts that should be given their own space.
A run-on sentence is a sentence composed of multiple independent clauses that are not separated by a period or properly joined using conjunctions.
A run-on sentence is a sentence composed of multiple independent clauses that are not separated by a period or properly joined using conjunctions.

Run-on Sentence Examples

The best way to understand run-on sentences is to scroll through some examples.

I went to the store they had asparagus I bought three bunches.

Here, you actually have three separate thoughts:

  1. I went to the store
  2. They had asparagus
  3. I bought three bunches

Putting them back to back without a period, comma, and/or conjunction in between creates a confusing sentence.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky it was the perfect weather for a picnic.

“There wasn’t a cloud in the sky” and “It was the perfect weather for a picnic” do seem related. That makes it tempting to put them together. However, each clause is a complete thought on its own. Meaning, these two clauses require some kind of separation.

What are the Three Types of Run-on Sentences?

Let’s dig deeper into the murky world of run-on sentences by exploring the three most-common types, namely:

  • comma splices
  • fused sentences
  • polysyndeton

Comma Splices

Comma splices are sentences that contain two complete thoughts joined by a comma. While the sentence does contain punctuation, it’s the wrong kind. It should be split into two sentences, or the comma swapped out for a semicolon.

Mia loves the playground, she asks to go every day.
Mia loves the playground. She asks to go every day.
Mia loves the playground; she asks to go every day.

Fused Sentences

Fused sentences are probably the most common type of run-on sentence. They contain two independent clauses that run together without proper punctuation.

The night was dark and stormy it was hard to see the road through all the rain.
The night was dark and stormy. It was hard to see the road through all the rain.
The night was dark and stormy, and it was hard to see the road through all the rain.
The night was dark and stormy it; it was hard to see the road through all the rain.

Polysyndeton

Polysyndetons refer to several complete thoughts connected by far too many conjunctions. This results in a very lengthy sentence that’s hard to follow.

Tanisha threw her boyfriend a party and all his friends came and they all brought presents and they ate cake and they played video games and they made a mess and no one helped her clean it up and it was a really long day.
Tanisha threw her boyfriend a part. All his friends came, and they all brought presents. Later, they ate cake and played video games. They made a mess, and no one helped her clean it up. It was a really long day.

How do you Identify a Run-On Sentence?

To help clean up you’re writing, go on a hunt for run-on sentences. Scour your content for sentences that contain more than one complete thought. Are they properly separated and/or punctuated? If there are two independent clauses jammed together, you likely have a run-on sentence. If you think the sentence has too many conjunctions like “and” or “but,” that may be a run-on sentence as well. When in doubt, separate complex sentences into shorter thoughts that are easier to track and comprehend.

What are the Five Ways to Correct a Run-On Sentence?

Realizing your text is peppered with run-ons? Don’t stress! These are small errors, and they’re easy to fix. All you need to do is separate the sentences. To do that, determine whether your idea would be best served by turning it into two sentences or inserting other punctuation.

1. Make two Separate Sentences

Sometimes the simplest thing to do is insert a period.

I can’t wait to go to the pool it’s my favorite place to hang out.
I can’t wait to go to the pool. It’s my favorite place to hang out.

2. Use a Semicolon to Separate Independent Clauses

Another option is to use a semicolon, but only if the two clauses are closely related.

I need to buy tomatoes they’re the only ingredient missing from my salad.
I need to buy tomatoes; they’re the only ingredient missing from my salad.

3. Use a Comma and a Coordinating Conjunction

Here, we separate run-on sentences by inserting a comma followed by a coordinating conjunction such as “and” or “but.”

The pandas were eating bamboo the kids got such a kick out of watching.
The pandas were eating bamboo, and the kids got such a kick out of watching.

4. Use a Semicolon, Conjunctive Adverb, and a Comma

Conjunctive adverbs are words like also, otherwise, and then that connect and smooth the transition between two independent clauses. They’re often used to show cause and effect or otherwise demonstrate why two ideas are related.

Taylor was afraid she wouldn’t make her flight she left work early to give herself extra time.
Taylor was afraid she wouldn’t make her flight; therefore, she left work early to giver herself extra time.

5. Split it into Two Separate Clauses and Use a Subordinate Conjunction

This method works similarly to the conjunctive adverb option above, except you’re going to use a subordinate conjunction. Using a subordinate conjunction turns the second clause into a dependent clause; it’s now secondary to the primary thought.

The glass was so slippery from condensation I nearly dropped my cocktail.
Because the glass was so slippery from condensation, I nearly dropped my cocktail.

Read More: What Is A Prepositional Phrase And What Are Some Examples?

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Krista Grace Morris

Krista heads up Marketing and Content Creation here at INK. From Linguistics and History to puns and memes, she's interested in the systems we create to share our ideas with each other.

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