23 Jan 2014

When should you not use a comma: correcting a run-on sentence

Hi there!
comma rules

A couple of days ago I published an entry about rules for using commas. Today we're going to focus on the opposite: when should you not use a comma! More specifically, we're going to focus on run on sentences, which appear over and over again in your compositions. (You have some practice at the end of the entry).

A run on sentence (or run together sentence) is composed of two separate sentences punctuated as if they were only one. Normally, run-on sentences happen because you have in mind two closely related ideas and write them down quickly, with only a comma in between. For example,

Everyone felt happy, it was the first warm day of the year.
Mike forgot the matches, I forgot the salt.
She likes quiz programs, he likes Westerns.

Since you are concentrating on the meaning, you do not stop to notice that you have written two complete sentences which must be appropriately separated...!


The second sentence of a run-together often begins with one of the following words: then, there, now, he, she, it, we, they. When you spot one of these "warning signals" in the middle of a sentence, check it carefully. There is a good chance that it is a run-together!!

First she told us how to get there, then she drew a map.
Jack didn't lie, he just exaggerated.
Don't wear the orange coat, it clashes with your dress.


There is more than one way to correct a run-together sentence. You decide which one to use!

1. Divide the run-together using a full stop:

First she told us how to get there, then she drew a map.
First she told us how to get there. Then, she drew a map.

2. Use a semicolon (;) instead of a comma:

We had to leave Fluffy at home, Grandma doesn't like cats.
We had to leave Fluffy at home; Grandma doesn't like cats.

3. Insert a connector like and, but or because after the comma, depending on how the sentences are related:

The living-room is beige, the bedroom is green.
The living is beige, and the bedroom is green.

Last summer I did nothing, this summer I'm going to camp.
Last summer I did nothing, but this summer I'm going to camp.

Ben wore his sunglasses to school, his regular glasses were broken.
Ben wore his sunglasses to school, because his regular glasses were broken.


Now it's time for you to practice! Click to take a quiz on run-on sentences!

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