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Five Ways to Correct Run-on Sentences

Are you puzzled by run-on sentences?  Do you know how to recognize them and correct them?  If not, read on!  Learn what to look for and how to fix run-on sentences.

Run-on sentences occur when two or more independent clauses are incorrectly joined. Independent clauses are clauses that can stand themselves. Run-on sentences are incorrect and you will likely see some examples in the English part of the ACT. You need to know how to fix them.  

Take the following run-on sentence:

James was excited about going to the concert, he left school early to ensure that he was not late.

This “sentence” is made up of two independent clauses:

“James was excited about going to the concert”   and
“He left school early to ensure that he was not late”

Do you see how each of these clauses can stand on their own? You don’t need anything else for each of the clauses to make sense. That’s the key to identifying run-ons.  Each part of the run-on sentence will be able to stand on it’s own.  Read the clause before the comma and then read the clause after the comma.  Do they make sense by themselves?  If so, you have found a run-on sentence!

Because the two independent clauses are spliced or joined together with a comma, run-on sentences are sometimes also called “comma splices”.

 

There are five ways to correct run-on sentences.

Make two separate sentences

The first way is the easiest way.  Just like I did above, take each independent clause and make a sentence out of it.  Using this method, we rewrite the above run-on sentence as:

James was excited about going to the concert. He left school early to ensure that he was not late.

Notice that you will need to adjust the capitalization and punctuation appropriately.

Use a semicolon to separate the independent clauses

If you want to join the clauses you can use a semicolon:

James was excited about going to the concert; he left school early to ensure that he was not late.

Use a comma and a coordination conjunction

The third way to correct a run on sentence is to use comma and coordinating conjunction between the two clauses, as in:

James was excited about going to the concert, and he left school early to ensure that he was not late.

“And” is not the only coordinating conjunction that you can use in this situation. There are a total of seven possibilities:
and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet

Which one should be used depends on what is to be communicated.  The previous sentence could also have been rewritten as:

James was excited about going to the concert, so he left school early to ensure that he was not late.

Use a semicolon, conjunctive adverb, and comma

The fourth way to correct independent clauses is to use a semicolon, a conjunctive adverb, and a comma to separate the clauses:

James was excited about going to the concert; therefore, he left school early to ensure that he was not late.

Note the difference?

There are lots of conjunctive adverbs:

also, otherwise, then, however, likewise

and many others.

So what is a conjunctive adverb? A conjunction is something that connects or joins two things, such as ideas, phrases, or clauses. They help make smooth transitions between the two items.

An adverb is a word that modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. They can also modify phrases or clauses. To say it another way, they give additional meaning to the thing they are modifying.
Each of the conjunctive adverbs listed above give a slightly different meaning to the phrase. “Also” connects two clauses that would be associated together. “Then” implies a sequence or order. “Likewise” shows similiartiy between the two clauses. And so on.

Don’t worry too much about all of this. The bottom line is that if you are using a word other than “and” to connect the two clauses, it is likely that it is a conjunctive adverb and that it should have the “; adverb, ” pattern.

Use a subordinate conjunction with one of the clauses

The fifth way to correct independent causes is to use a subordinate conjunction (such as because) with one of the clauses. Our example becomes:

Because James was excited about going to the concert, he left school early to ensure that he was not late.

In this case, the subordinating conjunction is used when there are two clauses that are unequal in meaning. The clause that the conjunction is used with becomes a dependent clause.  It can’t stand by itself.  You couldn’t say:

Because James was excited about going to the concert.  

That wouldn’t make sense.  This clause now requires the other clause to express a complete thought.  It is no longer independent.

The subordinate conjunction is used with the clause that is less important. In our example the important clause is that James left school early to ensure he wasn’t late to something. The other clause tells us more information about the context of his thoughts.

There are a number of subordinate conjunctions that you could use.  But that’s a subject for another day.

If you have the 2013-2014 version of the booklet, “Preparing For The ACT”, question 6 in the English section deals with a run-on sentence.  I told you that you would see this on the ACT!  This copy of the test only got 6 questions into the test before it showed up.

 

Mastering this might seem daunting, but it’s really not that hard.  When you are studying for the ACT, look for these patterns.  I’m sure you’ll find them and now, hopefully, you’ll notice them.

Good luck!

Scott

 

Photo by CollegeDegrees360.

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