Run on Sentences

A run-on sentence is a sentence that just keeps going and the writer uses words like and to keep it going so that she can get all those thoughts onto the screen or page as quickly as possible and not write that dreaded period because it feels like she is losing her train of thought, so she just sticks in a few commas, and connecting words and thinks that those will be enough to keep the reader reading at the same pace she is writing and therefore those periods won’t be missed and she’s okay not using them and didn’t she write so much good stuff???….


Okay, so now you know how a run-on looks and reads.

How do you fix them?

Start by reading the run-on sentence aloud. I usually take in a huge draught of air first. Then I start reading with my voice racing to the end of the sentence in that one breath. Then I collapse on the couch in exhaustion when I get to the end. (I am, after all, also an acting teacher. :))

Usually this little stunt will alert the writer to the fact that some punctuation is missing.

Once you’ve established that there is a run-on sentence (and the writer can see that the sentence is one), it’s time to decide how to punctuate it so that it says the same thing (with the same energy) but isn’t so cumbersome and long.

There are a few punctuation marks to try out.

  • The period.
    The period is the most obvious choice. When you come to the end of a complete thought, instead of using “and” to illegally join the next thought to it, put a period and a captial. Sometimes rearrange a couple of words to tighten the sentences.

    Original: He surfed a ten foot wave and crashed on the sand and bruised his hip and got salt water up his nose.

    Revised: He surfed a ten foot wave. He crashed on the sand, bruising his hip. Salt water went up his nose.

  • The semi-colon.
    Occasionally, the two sentences illegally joined are related to one another. You can keep the momentum going by using a semi-colon instead of a period and capital.

    She didn’t want me to braid her hair; she preferred wearing it in one big rat’s nest.

  • The conjunction.
    You can use “and” but try to reserve it for the middle of a sentence, not as the first word. Additionally, if you use “and” in a sentence, be sure to use a comma before it if what follows is a complete sentence. If the “and” only joins two nouns, there is no need for the comma:

    We ate our Belgian fries with mayonnaise and mustard.

    We ate our Belgian fries, and we took a walk in the nearby garden.

One Response to “Run on Sentences”

  1. Cay says:

    Thanks for this, Julie. I’ll have my two darling sons read this today. : ) They struggle so and put their punctuation in the strangest places. My 12-yr-old still writes incomplete sentences!!! A bite-size explanation like this might help them understand.~ Cay