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Run-on Sentences

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Overview:

When two or more independent clauses occur in the same sentence without punctuation, the result is an error called a run-on sentence. Run-on sentences can confuse your reader, who may misinterpret your point. It is important to avoid errors in sentence structure so that your writing is clear and concise, and your reader can easily understand your intended meaning.

Run-on sentences are the result of two or more independent clauses fused together without punctuation. Remember that independent clauses could be complete sentences on their own, so a run-on sentence expresses two complete thoughts without the help of the appropriate punctuation and/or conjunctions to make them make sense.

Here are some examples of run-on sentences and correct sentences:

            Run-on: Shaheera loves books she visits the library every week.

            Correct: Shaheera loves books, so she visits the library every week.

            Run-on: Morgan’s bakery sells cupcakes and pies it also sells scones.

            Correct: Morgan’s bakery sells cupcakes and pies. It also sells scones.

Techniques for Correcting Run-on Sentences

The following are run-on sentences:

    He decided that he would take off his helmet he left his gloves and sunglasses on.

    Fishing was my favorite activity during my stay in Oregon that was the only time I ever went fishing

Separate independent clauses by adding a period and making them into two sentences

    He decided that he would take off his helmet. He left his gloves and sunglasses on.

    Fishing was my favorite activity during my stay in Oregon. That was the only time I ever went fishing.

Conjoin independent clauses using a coordinating conjunction

    He decided that he would take off his helmet, but he left his gloves and sunglasses on.

    Fishing was my favorite activity during my stay in Oregon, and that was the only time I ever went fishing.

Make one independent clause dependent by adding a dependent word

    Although he decided that he would take off his helmet, he left his gloves and sunglasses on.

    While fishing was my favorite activity during my stay in Oregon, that was the only time I ever went fishing.        

Conjoin independent clauses using a conjunctive adverb

    He decided that he would take off his helmet; however, he left his gloves and sunglasses on.

    Fishing was my favorite activity during my stay in Oregon; nevertheless, that was the only time I ever went fishing.

Conjoin independent clauses by adding a semicolon

    He decided that he would take off his helmet; he left his gloves and sunglasses on.

    Fishing was my favorite activity during my stay in Oregon; that was the only time I ever went fishing.

Notice that when you join two independent clauses using a semicolon, the sentences must be closely related with similar emphases. In other words, don’t join together two independent clauses that are unrelated; the semicolon demonstrates a close relationship between the two. Also, be careful not to overuse semicolons. More than one or two semicolons in the same paragraph is probably too many.

Style Matters:

Now look at your own writing. Look for sentences that are really long and check to see if they are run-on sentences. If a sentence has two or more subjects, two or more verbs and expresses two or more complete thoughts without punctuation between them, then it is a run-on sentence. Correct any run-on sentences you see using the techniques described here. This will help you produce writing that is clearer and more understandable. Also, try using all of the techniques; don’t stick with just one. It is important to vary your sentence style to keep your reader interested.


Copyright (C) 2010. All rights reserved.
This handout is part of a library of instructional materials used in California State University, Long Beach’s writing center, the Writer’s Resource Lab. Educators and students are welcome to distribute copies as long as they do so with attribution to all organizations and authors. Commercial distribution is prohibited.