How Run-on Sentences can Undermine an Essay & How to Correct Them

How Run-on Sentences can Undermine an Essay & How to Correct Them

A run-on sentence is either a fused sentence or a comma splice. So how can a student correct her essay when she has these problems?

A run-on sentence doesn't always necessarily sound like a bad thing to a student: "So I went on a little long. Who cares?" Well, actually, it's more than just going on for longer than one should. It's actually combining two or more sentences into one long incorrect sentence that should actually be joined in a different way or broken into more parts. A run-on sentence can be either a fused sentence or a comma splice. While basically the two have the same problem, they are slightly different.
The Problems of the Fused Sentence
A dictionary will tell a student that fusing involves mixing or combining, so a student should first realize that he has combined more than one sentence together. He might think that when one's leg bones are fused back together after being broken that fusing is a good thing (and, in that case, it is!), but a fused sentence indicates that something needs to be fixed.
Here are some examples of fused sentences:
• I went to the park today I saw a dog.
• I don't appreciate your tone don't call me names!
• I can't believe it I got an A!
The problem with fused sentences is that they are fusing two sentences together incorrectly. Each of the above examples actually has two complete independent sentences:
• Sentence 1: I went to the park today. Sentence 2: I saw a dog.
• Sentence 1: I don't appreciate your tone. Sentence 2: Don't call me names!
• Sentence 1: I can't believe it. Sentence 2: I got an A!
Notice that each sentence has a subject and a verb (in sentence 2 of the second example, "you" is understood to be the subject: "(You) don't call me names!"). There are several ways to correct fused sentences. The first way is to simply separate the fused sentences with punctuation, as is shown above. However, a semicolon can separate the two, or a comma with a conjunction will also work. See these other ways to correct the fused sentences:

• Using a semicolon: I went to the park today; I saw a dog.
• I don't appreciate your tone; don't call me names!
• Using a comma and conjunction: I can't believe it, but I got an A!
• I went to the park today, and I saw a dog.
Students who are frequently "accused" of writing fused sentences might find it helpful to begin identifying the two separate sentences. Simply realizing what a fused sentence is and learning to identify it can help.
The Problem With the Comma Splice
A comma splice is another similar form of a run-on sentence. This time, though, the two sentences are joined with a comma. It is the same sort of problem in that two sentences are joined together incorrectly. Here are examples of comma splices, using the same examples from above:
• I went to the park today, I saw a dog.
• I don't appreciate your tone, don't call me names!
• I can't believe it, I got an A!
Again, these sentences are not joined correctly. Just like a fused sentence incorrectly joins two sentences together, a comma splice incorrectly combines two sentences. This time, though, the comma splices the two parts incorrectly.
Knowing that both a fused sentence and a comma splice are two versions of the same problem should alert the student to know that the same corrections can be made to both problems. The only difference between the two problems is that fused sentences just combine the two sentences while the comma splice involves punctuation. However, just like the fused sentence, a comma splice can be corrected easily using one of these three methods:
• Separate the two individual sentences. Make them two independent sentences with ending punctuation such as a period, exclamation point, or question mark.
• Use a semicolon between the two. Using a semicolon often indicates that the two sentences are related but are, in fact, separate sentences.
• Separate the two sentences with a comma followed by a conjunction (such as and, but, or, etc.).
Correcting Run-on Sentences Will Make a Student's Essay Better
Run-on sentences might seem like a little problem, but they can actually serve to be a huge distraction to one's instructor or peers. Fixing a run-on sentence is fairly easy once a student knows what a run-on sentence actually is and learns the different ways to correct it. And small things like fixing run-on sentences really do make a big difference in how people receive a student's essay. One's essay suddenly seems more professional and well thought out, and who wouldn't want to leave readers with that impression?

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