Run-On Sentence Examples: Does Your Writing Go On and On?

What Are Run-on Sentences?

Discover what run-on sentences are, how to avoid them, and how to improve your writing!

Run-on sentences incorrectly attempt to join two (or more) related complete sentences.

Sound familiar? Comma splices, another grammatical plague, are also run-on sentences. For example:

  • Comma Splice

    It was a spectacularly beautiful day, there was not a cloud in the sky.

  • Run-on

    It was a spectacularly beautiful day there was not a cloud in the sky.

The following are correct alternatives to this poorly constructed sentence:

  • The Declarative Period

    It was a spectacularly beautiful day. There was not a cloud in the sky.

  • The Comma and Coordinating Conjunction

    It was a spectacularly beautiful day, and there was not a cloud in the sky.

  • The Formal (but Stylistic) Semicolon

    It was a spectacularly beautiful day; there was not a cloud in the sky.

  • The Conversational Dash

    It was a spectacularly beautiful day – there was not a cloud in the sky.


Typical Run-on Sentences

Run-on sentences are often a result of the following scenarios:

  1. When the second of the joined complete sentences contains a pronoun that connects it to the first sentence.
     
    • Run-On: Pam and George had a picnic in the park they had pickles and peanut butter sandwiches.
    • Period: Pam and George had a picnic in the park. They had pickles and peanut butter sandwiches.
  2. When the second of the joined complete sentences gives a command that’s related to the the first sentence.
     
    • Run-On: I’ll get the basket, you should put the blanket on the ground.
    • Dash: I’ll get the basket – you should put the blanket on the ground.
  3. When two complete sentences are joined by a conjunctive adverb (e.g., however, meanwhile, namely, nonetheless).
     
    • Run-On: George placed the red and white checkered blanket over a mound of fire ants, nonetheless, he was determined to have a great time.
    • Semicolon: George placed the red and white checkered blanket over a mound of fire ants; nonetheless, he was determined to have a great time.

Run-On Sentence Scapegoats

Often confused with run-on sentences, loose sentences use semicolons, dashes, colons, and coordinating conjunctions to join complete sentences excessively. Although technically correct, loose sentences can risk distracting the reader from the author’s message and reflect poorly on the author. For example:

It was a spectacularly beautiful day – there was not a cloud in the sky, and the sun was shining. George and Pam went to the park to have a picnic; they had pickles and peanut butter sandwiches with sparkling water on a red and white checkered blanket. George tossed a Frisbee to the dog, and he waved to the other park goers who passed their delightful little picnic.

Before you decide to remove all forms of joining punctuation from your repertoire and settle with the period, know the pendulum swings both ways! Writing in short, compact sentences can be just as jarring. For example:

It was a spectacularly beautiful day. There was not a cloud in the sky. The sun was shining….

What’s the solution? Find balance! Trim and tweak loose passages to engage your reader and maintain your message. Here’s how:

  • Read out loud. If you’re out of breath by the end punctuation mark, use this as a cue to adjust your sentence.
  • Don’t delay! When it’s time to start another sentence, start it.
  • Consider new formats – lists or steps – to help deliver information succinctly and coherently.
  • Look for joined complete sentences. Would each sentence be clearer if it stood on its own?
  • Is the sentence necessary? Always consider whether it’s important to the reader.
  • Start from scratch. Take the roots of your idea and completely rework the sentence.

Whether you choose to use to join (or not join) is entirely up to the style and tone you want to achieve. Always remember your sentences should (easily) breathe and carry your message to the reader, but they should never run on or utilize a comma splice.

As always, share any questions or suggestions – we’d love to hear from you! And if you’d like more great grammar and writing tips, browse our Grammar Tips category.

12 Comments »


1
Dave Hornbeck writes:

This is very helpful. I have been guilty of run-ons more frequently than I realized. I really like all of the writing tips Ezine sends to me. Keep up the excellent work!

Comment provided March 19, 2013 at 9:57 AM

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2
Kathleen Clohessy writes:

I agree that this is a common problem. I’ve been working hard to shorten my sentences and add more periods, too. I also find that reading my work out loud helps a great deal.

However, I disagree about the use of semi-colons. I use them often; they are less jarring than a period and less annoying than two complete sentences joined by “and” or “but”. I agree that they should be use sparingly, but not that they are stylistic or obsolete.

Comment provided March 19, 2013 at 11:07 AM

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Kathleen,

I think you may have misinterpreted our recommendation. We are not stating that semicolons are bad; we’d never do that! We love semicolons! ;-) What we are recommending is that one should balance the structure of all types of sentences (e.g., use both joiners like semicolons AS WELL AS don’t join complete sentences for optimal balance). This prevents loose sentences as well as run-ons, which will keep your reader engaged and prevent boredom.

Marc

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3
CH James writes:

This is a terrific topic, and something every serious writer should take to heart. So often people feel verbosity is necessary to be viewed as an authority, when succinct and clear writing is the real art form.

Once you can convey as much in a crisp 15 or 20-word sentence as somebody else does in a paragraph-length mess of fragments and run-ons, you’re on to something.

Comment provided March 19, 2013 at 1:11 PM

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4
Robert Lons writes:

Great tips! I have to admit that in the past I was guilty of semicolon overuse. It’s common for many writers to use longer sentences, but I’ve found using short, concise sentences really improves the overall readability of my blog posts.

Comment provided March 19, 2013 at 8:33 PM

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5
Tony writes:

Good tips to know. Thanks for sharing.

Comment provided March 19, 2013 at 8:45 PM

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6
Randall Magwood writes:

This sounds like a real good English lesson lol. I hate reading run-on sentences. I typically encounter this when people outsource their article writing to amateurs, just to save time and mass produce their article campaigns. But the quality is sometimes really poor.

Comment provided March 20, 2013 at 1:42 AM

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7

Run-On sentences are very common in law and legal languages. But some are fun tastic! like the one here…..She sells sea shells on the sea shore….a tongue twister indeed. If you repeat with increased pace, the senetence will roll into a different sentence.

Comment provided March 21, 2013 at 4:21 AM

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8
Gracious Store writes:

The best way to take care of run-on sentences to join no more than two complete short sentences using appropriate conjunction(s)

Comment provided March 21, 2013 at 9:33 PM

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9

Recently I came across these words on a heavy crane parked near a Metro rail site.
“Know Safety No Pain No Safety No Pain”. Is it a Run-on sentence.

Comment provided March 22, 2013 at 4:17 AM

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10
Rinat writes:

I personally use frazeit site to find the right turn of my sentences. This is very useful site, especially for someone like me who is not fluent in english.

Comment provided April 18, 2013 at 7:33 AM

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11
Bunyamin writes:

Thank you

Comment provided June 1, 2014 at 1:06 AM

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