Grammar 9 min read

🏃🏽‍♀️ Run-on Sentence: Why it's bad and the Best Ways to fix it

Main Run-on Sentence Takeaways:

  • A run-on sentence contains two or more independent clauses that aren’t properly separated and/or punctuated.
  • Easily identify a run-on sentence by looking for multiple complete thoughts that aren’t properly separated.
  • The three types of run-on sentences are comma splices, fused sentences, and polysyndetons.
  • The reason you should avoid run-on sentences is they can make ideas less clear and even confusing to readers.
  • Easily fix a run-on sentence by making two separate sentences, separating independent clauses with a semicolon, or using a comma with a coordinating conjunction.
  • You can also use a semicolon, conjunctive adverb, and a comma. Or, join two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction.
Michael wakes up at 5 a.m. everyday to workout, consistently going to the gym is important to him.
Michael wakes up at 5 a.m. everyday to workout. Consistently going to the gym is important to him.
Michael wakes up at 5 a.m. everyday to workout; Consistently going to the gym is important to him.
Michael wakes up at 5 a.m. everyday to workout because consistently going to the gym is important to him.
Gary mentioned how important it is to reflect on what we have in life everything can change in an instant the key to his success is staying positive.
Gary mentioned how important it is to reflect on what we have in life because everything can change in an instant. The key to his success is staying positive.
Last summer I visited Italy’s famous Amalfi Coast and had breakfast in Salerno but went to the beach in Positano and hiked to Ravello to enjoy the spectacular view.
Last summer, I visited Italy’s famous Amalfi Coast. I had breakfast in Salerno, but went to the beach in Positano. Then, I hiked to Ravello to enjoy the spectacular view.

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. In this post, you’ll get an easy run-on sentence definition, tons of run-on sentence examples, and the five best ways to fix this grammatical error.

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Two boys racing each other. The one leading the race is taking a selfie while running.
A run-on sentence is a sentence composed of multiple independent clauses that are not separated by a period or properly joined using conjunctions.

What is a Run-on Sentence?

A run-on sentence contains two or more independent clauses, or complete sentences, that are not joined properly. For example, these complete thoughts are not separated by a period or properly joined using a conjunction (I love pizza I would eat it every day should be I love pizza. I would it it everyday). In other words, it’s a mash-up of two complete thoughts that should be given their own space.

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.

Run-on Sentence Examples

Here are some examples of run-on sentences:

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.

I went to the store and they had asparagus, so I bought three bunches.
I went to the store. They had asparagus, and I bought three bunches.
I went to the store. They had asparagus; I bought three bunches.
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.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was the perfect weather for a picnic.
There wasn’t a cloud in the sky; It was the perfect weather for a picnic.
There wasn’t a cloud in the sky; therefore, it was the perfect weather for a picnic.
There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so it was the perfect weather for a picnic.

What are the Three Types of Run-on Sentences?

The three types of run-on sentences are comma splices, fused sentences, and polysyndetons. First, comma splices occur when a comma joins two independent clauses instead of a semicolon. Secondly, fused sentences crash two independent clauses together without any punctuation. Thirdly, polysyndetons overuse conjunctions like and, but, and so to join clauses together.

Let’s take a closer look at the three types of run-on sentences:

  • comma splices
  • fused sentences
  • polysyndeton

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

Erica 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.
Erica 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?

When you join two independent clauses (also called complete sentences) with a comma instead of a semicolon, without any punctuation at all, or with too many conjunctions, then you most likely have a run-on sentence. Scour your content for sentences that contain more than one complete thought. Are they properly separated and/or punctuated? When in doubt, separate complex sentences into shorter thoughts that are easier to track and comprehend.

If there are two independent clauses jammed together, you probably 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.
How to fix a run-on sentence? First, make two sentences. Second, use semicolon. Third, use comma plus coordinating conjunction. Fourth, use a semicolon plus conjunctive adverb plus comma. Fifth, split into two clauses plus use a conjunction.
Run-on Sentence Infographic

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

There are five ways to correct a run-on sentence. First, make two separate sentences. Secondly, use a semicolon to separate independent clauses. Third, use a comma and a coordinating conjunction like and, but, and so. Fourth, use a semicolon, conjunctive adverb like therefore and a comma. Fifth, split the sentence into two separate clauses and use a subordinate conjunction to join them.

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.

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. Use any one of the five ways to fix a run-on sentence and make your writing as understandable and easy to read as possible.

Can you Spot a Run-on Sentence?

Run-on Sentence Question #1

Which of these is a type of run-on sentence?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is D. These three are the most common types of run-on sentences

Run-on Sentence Question #2

Identify the type of run-on sentence: Jay loves Stella, Stella made him happy.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is B. Comma splices are sentences that contain two complete thoughts joined by a comma.

Run-on Sentence Question #3

Identify the type of run-on sentence: At first I was afraid I was petrified.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is C. Fused sentences contain two independent clauses that run together without proper punctuation.

Run-on Sentence Question #4

A polysyndeton is a very lengthy sentence.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is TRUE. Polysyndetons refer to several complete thoughts connected by far too many conjunctions.

Run-on Sentence Question #5

Which of these is FALSE about a run-on sentence?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is C. Run-on sentences can be confusing and difficult to read.

Which of these can help correct a run-on sentence?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is D. Note that you can only use a semicolon if the clauses are closely related.

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

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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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