How to Identify a Run-on Sentence

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  • 0:04 Run-On Sentences
  • 0:38 When They Occur & How…
  • 1:44 Form a Compound Sentence
  • 2:53 Form a Complex Sentence
  • 3:47 Reword the Sentence
  • 4:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

There are many common grammatical errors that a good writer needs to avoid. On the sentence level, this includes fragments and run-on sentences. In this lesson, we'll explore the various types of run-ons and how to avoid or correct them if they occur.

Run-On Sentences

We all have that friend or acquaintance who just talks and talks and talks. While that style of communication is hard to listen to, it is even harder to read. In conversation a person should pause periodically, allowing time for the listener to process and respond. In writing, we have a variety of punctuation marks and tactics for connecting ideas.

In this lesson, we will explore how to identify and avoid the run-on sentence, which is the written version of that person who won't stop talking.

When They Occur and How to Separate

A run-on sentence occurs when two or more independent clauses are joined together without the proper connection. Remember, an independent clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb that expresses a complete thought.

The best way to identify run-on sentences is to look at the many ways in which sentences can go wrong. While we're looking at some sample problems, we will also fix a few run-on sentences for practice (after all, what's the use of finding one if we aren't going to fix it?).

Separate It

The first category of run-on sentences is often a result of a typographical error. Simply put, the author forgot to end the first sentence with a punctuation mark and begin the next sentence with a capital letter. The solution is to separate the two sentences. Let's try it.

  • The problem: Damian got a ticket he ran a red light in town.

Note the two clauses: 1) Damian got a ticket and 2) he ran a red light in town. Each clause could stand alone as a sentence, if properly punctuated.

  • The solution: Damian got a ticket. He ran a red light in town.

Form a Compound Sentence

The next category of run-on sentences consists of two related clauses that belong together, but have been combined together with no punctuation or connecting words. The solution to this problem is to make a compound sentence of two independent clauses joined by a comma and a coordinating conjunction. A coordinating conjunction joins two equal clauses. There are seven coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so, which you can remember with the helpful acronym FANBOYS.

  • The problem: Damian told his son he didn't tell his wife.

The two clauses are 1) Damian told his son, and 2) he didn't tell his wife. The topics of these two sentences are similar, and the structures are parallel. It would make sense to join them. The coordinating conjunction of choice is ''but'' since there is a contrast. We can't forget the comma, which goes after the first clause and before the ''but.''

  • The solution: Damian told his son, but he didn't tell his wife.

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