Often it’s thought that a run-on sentence is a very long sentence that cannot be spoken in one breath. Not true! A run-on sentence has two or more independent clauses (groups of words that communicate complete thoughts — an independent clause could stand alone as its own sentence) placed together without the correct punctuation. By this definition, a run-on sentence can be very short.
People use run-on sentences when speaking, but by using changes in vocal tone or in tempo (pauses, speaking slower, etc.) the meaning is easily understood. In writing, correct punctuation must be used so that the reader does not become confused.
Run-on sentences can be corrected by:
- Inserting a semicolon between the independent clauses
- Making the clauses two separate sentences
- Inserting a comma and then a conjunction (and, but, or, yet, for, nor or so)
Now, let’s look at some examples and how we might correct them.
(Short) Run-on: That little girl didn’t seem happy she was crying.
Correct Option: That little girl didn’t seem happy; she was crying.
Run-on: Karen was upset with Jenna about what she said however, she appreciated her honesty about the matter.
Correct Option: Karen was upset with Jenna about what she said; however, she appreciated her honesty about the matter.
Run-on: Jessie’s dog was sick this morning, Jessie had a bad day at work.
Correct Option: Jessie’s dog was sick this morning, so Jessie had a bad day at work.
Run-on: I found my keys in my roommate’s purse, she mistook them for hers.
Correct Option: I found my keys in my roommate’s purse. She mistook them for hers.
*It’s important to note that even though a lengthy sentence might not be a run-on sentence, multiple sentences might be easier to understand.