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What Are Run-On Sentences?

They don't have to be long.

 

By
Mignon Fogarty,
August 26, 2010
Episode #237

Page 3 of 3

Run-On Sentences and Your Writing Style

How you fix a run-on sentence depends on how the different parts are related to each other and what tone and rhythm you are trying to achieve.

Sometimes people ask me how they can choose the best way to structure their sentences when there are so many different ways to connect independent clauses. In most cases, there's no right answer to that question. You have to determine what kind of tone you want to set. For example, I am a woman. I am a truck driver has a very hard and strong tone, whereas I am a woman; nevertheless, I am a truck driver has more of a conversational tone. In the first case, where I used the periods, I expect to hear a tale of conflict; in the second case, where I used a conjunctive adverb, I just expect to hear an interesting story. The differences can obviously be subtle.

I believe that when you're writing, it's important not to over-think your sentence structure. If you make sure your sentences are grammatically correct and write what you mean to say, there's a good chance you'll just automatically pick the right structure for your needs, especially if you are a native English speaker. If you get too hung up on whether to use a semicolon or a conjunction, it can inhibit your creativity (at least it can for me).

Also, most people end up having a personal writing style that favors certain solutions over others for no apparent reason. I bet you can read e-mail messages from your friends and tell who wrote most of them, no matter what the topic is, because you'll recognize your friends' writing styles. It can be a fun exercise to try to write in a style that is completely different from how you would normally write—just make sure you don't fuse independent clauses together and make run-on sentences.

I'm Mignon Fogarty, author of the New York Times bestseller, Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

* The use of fix as a noun is considered correct, but informal.

Image: Elo dog run, Marc Nehmer at Wikimedia. CC BY 3.0 Germany

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