Identifying Run-on Sentences and How to Fix Them

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When is casual writing okay?

Much of the time, we write how we speak. Sometimes, that can make your content more accessible. Other times, especially when writing this way leads to run-on sentences, it can interrupt the flow of your content and confuse readers. Run-on sentences can be difficult to identify, but your content depends on it.

What is a run-on sentence?

You create a run-on sentence when you join two or more independent clauses without proper punctuation. It can occur when a writer misuses punctuation or neglects it entirely.

For example:

  • Last night I went to the grocery store I got milk, eggs, bread, and cinnamon.

It’s pretty obvious that what I’ve written is two different sentences. But what if the run-on sentence is less obvious?

Consider the following:

  • Last night, I went to the grocery store to get milk, eggs, bread, and cinnamon to make French toast Sunday for my friends who are staying over Saturday night.

This one isn’t as obvious although you can tell that it goes on for too long.

The best way to determine whether your sentence is too long is to read it aloud. If you’re out of breath by the time you’ve finished speaking, your sentence is too long.

You might also be able to tell if a sentence is too long by how many lines it takes up on your computer screen. If your sentence is longer than three lines, it’s likely too long.

How can I fix a run-on sentence?

Go back to your sentence and see whether you can split it. Let’s consider our example above. Instead of the one long sentence, we can make two shorter sentences.

  • Last night, I went to the grocery store to get milk, eggs, bread, and cinnamon. I’m making French toast on Sunday for my friends who are staying over Saturday night.

You can also correct a run-on sentence with semicolons, commas, and em-dashes. Don’t feel This is not a formula; just try it out and see which works best for you.

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