Sunday, January 20, 2008

33. The Run-On Sentence Blooper

Welcome, Everyone! I hope you've been well since our last lesson and that you're ready for another topic on a grammar blooper we see all the time. If you'll pay attention and learn today's rules, you'll get an A+ for being sharp as a brier.

Today's lesson is centered on something we see written way too much: run-on sentences. Back in my teaching days, I constantly saw students using tons of them in things they wrote. This error is also seen quite a bit in written publications such as newspapers, magazines, and other such material. Let's see if we can fix this problem right now!

Here are some examples of this mistake:

1. He was behind the door when brains were passed out, he's also so clumsy he couldn't hit the ground if he fell.

...or...

2. We knew which truck we wanted to buy, we didn't have enough money.

...or...

3. Horror stories are thrilling, many people enjoy them.

...or...

4. Stephen King is a very popular horror writer, his books sell especially well at Halloween.

So... what do you think is wrong with these sentences? Each example shows two separate sentences written as though they were one sentence. This error is called a run-on sentence since they show two sentences joined by a comma. (They have run into each other :-)

All you need to do to correct this is

1. Form two separate sentences by using a period between them:

He was behind the door when brains were passed out. He's also so clumsy, he couldn't hit the ground if he fell.

2. Add a comma and a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, for, so, yet, nor) between the two sentence parts (or clauses):

We knew which truck we wanted to buy, BUT we didn't have enough money.

3. Join the two sentence parts with a semicolon:

Horror stories are thrilling; many people enjoy them...or finally...

4. Use a semicolon with a conjunctive adverb (therefore, then, moreover, nevertheless, besides, also, still, finally, consequently, accordingly, furthermore, hence, however, indeed, otherwise, thus)followed by a comma between the two sentence parts:

Stephen King is a very popular horror writer; THEREFORE, his books sell especially well near Halloween.

Now try your hand at figuring out which one in the two pairs of following sentences is correct:

A. Waccamaw Academy will have its first football team in its 40-year history next fall. The decision was made Monday night by the school's board of directors.

B. Waccamaw Academy will have its first football team in its 40-year history next fall, the decision was made Monday night by the school's board of directors.

C. The Columbus County Courthouse should look beautiful, it should also be a place where people can work or visit safely.

D. The Columbus County Courthouse should look beautiful, but it should also be a place where people can work or visit safely.

E. Whiteville's newest retail destination, Lowe's Home Store, will open next week, and many residents are thrilled.

F. Whiteville's newest retail destination, Lowe's Home Store, will open next week, many residents are thrilled.

G. The Columbus County Parks and Recreation Department began in 1977 with a budget of only $13,000, today it operates on a budget of roughly $500,000.

H. The Columbus County Parks and Recreation Department began in 1977 with a budget of only $13,000; however, today it operates on a budget of roughly $500,000.

...And...here are the incorrect answers: B, C, F, and G...and they're all incorrect because we see two sentence parts (or independent clauses) joined together by a comma as one sentence...that's why we call them run-on-sentences. Now how did we correct them?

A. We simply placed a period between the two parts.

D. Both parts are joined together by a comma and the coordinating conjunction, BUT.

E. Both clauses are joined together by a comma with another coordinating conjunction, AND.

H. Both clauses are joined together by a semicolon and the conjunctive adverb, HOWEVER.

Well, all of you grammar scholars, that should help if you've been confused by a teacher writing RS somewhere on your composition. RS just means that you've used a run-on sentence in your paragraph. Of course, now you know what to do to avoid this...Right? You have several options when choosing how to correct this error, but just be sure it makes sense. Read your idea to yourself and, no doubt, your "ear" (and common sense) will tell you what is correct.

Time to go, so take good care of yourself, and keep on with your good speech and writing. Peace and happiness to all, GG

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Ginger Kowski said...

Hello, I love knowing how to write correctly. I do have a question about one of the run on sentences that you gave. In the sentence," He was behind the door when brains were passed out. He's also so clumsy, he couldn't hit the ground if he fell," why wouldn't a person put commas before and after also in the second sentence. Please feel free to correct my grammatical errors. Thanks Ginger