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Identifying and Correcting Run-On Sentences


How to Edit Essays & Papers for Incorrect Sentence Structure

Fused sentences and comma splices are common in writing and can easily be corrected with punctuation. Learn how to recognize and correct run-on sentences in your writing.

The run-on sentence is one of the most common mistakes in the English language from the time a person learns how to put sentences together to the time a person writes essays and papers for classes.

Understanding what run-on sentences are and how to identify them in your writing will increase professionalism as a top essay writer in your writing and improve your credibility as a writer, whether you are writing a thesis statement or an email to a coworker.

Recognizing Fused Sentences in Writing

A fused sentence is a type of run-on sentence most commonly found in elementary writing. A fused sentence contains two complete sentences written back to back with no punctuation or capitalization. The following are examples of fused sentences:

  • I’ll bring the salad you bring the dessert.
  • Can you believe that she told him that it’s like she never even told him she loved him?

Although the first example is short, there are two complete thoughts contained in the sentence. “I’ll bring the salad” and “You bring the dessert” should be combined in some way to make a complete sentence or separated to make two sentences. Similarly, the second example should be separated between the words “that” and “it’s.”

Recognizing Comma Splices in Writing

Comma splices are common in all types of writing and occur when two sentences are combined with nothing but a comma. Most people learn that two sentences cannot be joined by only a comma because a comma doesn’t contain enough “glue” to hold the sentence together. The following are examples of comma splices:

  • You grab the cups, I’ll get the plates.
  • As she approached the cat, it pounced on Jonah, he let out a yelp.

The first example contains two complete sentences, “Jason, you grab the cups” and “I’ll get the plates” that need more punctuation than a comma. The second example combines a dependent clause with an independent clause, but the second independent clause “he let out a yelp” needs more than a comma to combine it with the first sentence.

Ways to Correct Run-On Sentences

While run-on sentences occur frequently in writing, they can be easily corrected once identified. Run-on sentences can be easily fixed in four ways:

  • By ending the first sentence with a period and starting a new sentence with a new thought.
  • By placing a semicolon between the two sentences.
  • By placing a comma and conjunction after the first sentence.
  • By making one of the sentences dependent on the other.

While using any of the methods is acceptable and grammatically correct for correcting a run-on sentence, sometimes it makes more sense to use one method over another.

When the run-on sentence contains two short and related sentences, like the first example sentence, it makes more sense to connect the two using a semicolon: “I’ll bring the salad; you bring the dessert.”

Likewise, if the sentences are lengthy and/or unrelated, it makes more sense to make the two separate sentences: “Can you believe she told him that? It’s like she never even told him she loved him.”

If one sentence is a reaction or response to another, it makes sense to either use the comma and conjunction method or the dependent/independent method. Comma/conjunction: “As she approached the cat, it pounced on Jonah, and he let out a yelp.” Dependent/Independent: “‘If you grab the cups, I’ll get the plates.

Remember that any of the above methods are acceptable for correcting run-on sentences, so do not limit yourself to one or two methods as variety in sentence structure improves writing style.

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