I asked my daughter, a graduate student, what grammar, punctuation, or writing issue she would like me to cover in my next article. She mentioned run-on sentences because this is a problem she and her fellow classmates struggle with because “we have so much to say” when they are preparing papers. So here it is—run-on sentences and how to avoid them.
As a preliminary warning, run-on sentences do not necessarily have to be these extremely long sentences that leave you out of breath when you are done reading them. A run-on sentence can be comprised of just a few words; however, the sentence is missing the appropriate punctuation or connecting word. Take, for example, the following run-on sentence consisting of two independent clauses (an independent clause is a group of words that contains a subject and verb and expresses a complete thought, thus forming a sentence):
The teacher read the lesson the students texted.
This sentence can be corrected by modifying it as follows with the use of a punctuation mark, a connector, or both:
· Use a comma with a conjunction (and, but, for, nor, or, so, or yet)
The teacher read the lesson, and the students texted.
· Use a semicolon with a connector (e.g., however, nevertheless, therefore, consequently)
The teacher read the lesson; however, the students texted.
· Use a semicolon when you are not using a conjunction
The teacher read the lesson; the students texted.
· Use a period.
The teacher read the lesson. The students texted.
When you are writing, it may help to read the sentence aloud. Where are you pausing? This may be a good indication of where to place a punctuation mark; however, be aware that where you pause may not necessarily indicate a punctuation mark’s proper placement. Please refer to my previous article for more information on this issue.
On a separate note to all students: I chose the above sentence to demonstrate a grammar issue; I am well aware that texting does not occur in classrooms—right?