Run-On Sentences

Comma Splices

In contrast to sentence fragments, run-on sentences contain two or more clauses that could be separated to stand independently on their own, rather than being crammed into a single sentence.

One of the common ways in which run-on sentences find themselves into students’ writing is through the comma splice. The comma splice happens when there are two independent clauses that are merely separated by a comma, and this results in the ideas in the sentence being expressed in a somewhat awkward and abrupt manner. This could be corrected either by linking the two independent clauses together with a conjunction, or separating them with a semi-colon or a period, as shown in the example below:

Incorrect: The weather was nice and windy, she decided to go cycling at ECP.

Correct 1: The weather was nice and windy, so she decided to go cycling at ECP.

Correct 2: The weather was nice and windy; she decided to go cycling at ECP.

Correct 3: The weather was nice and windy. She decided to go cycling at ECP.

In the first correct example, the two clauses are linked together with the conjunction “so”. Other ways to correct the comma splice can be through using the semi-colon or the period, as seen in examples 2 and 3.

Again, it is important to note that what makes sentence fragments and run-on sentences incorrect are not their length, but whether they are grammatically and structurally sound or not.

Sentence Fragments II

Let’s refer back to the sentence we looked at last week:

Tirelessly toiling on his project, as he believes that hard work ultimately pays off.

In addition, the line “as he believes that hard work ultimately pays off” is also a fragment because it begins with the subordinate conjunction “as”.

Subordinate conjunctions are words like as, although, even though, because, since, though, and whereas. If a clause begins with words such as these, it then becomes a subsidiary clause that functions to simply explain a main clause, but is unable to independently stand on its own. It also results in the clause ending on an abrupt and incomplete note.

Incorrect: As he believes that hard work ultimately pays off.

Correct: He believes that hard work ultimately pays off.

Rather than adding a main clause to complete the fragment, the above incorrect example could also stand on its own as a proper sentence if “as” were to be removed instead, as shown in the example above.

It is useful to note that the sheer length of words is not what determines what makes a sentence, but the presence of a subject and a verb, and a complete thought being formed as a result.

Sentence Fragments

A sentence fragment is a string of words that may appear to be a complete sentence, but lacks either a subject or a verb, or even both, and thus fails to stand on its own as a full sentence. Sometimes, lengthily descriptive sentence fragments can deceivingly appear like sentences, but students need to ensure that there is a subject-verb relationship in the strings of words that they write, in order for it to be considered as a proper sentence.

For example:

Incorrect: Tirelessly toiling on his project, as he believes that hard work ultimately pays off.

Correct: Tirelessly toiling on his project, as he believes that hard work ultimately pays off, Philip had little sleep for a week, but felt relieved when he finally completed his work and submitted it to his teacher.

The above incorrect example is a sentence fragment, as it is merely descriptive, but is not a complete thought on its own – it needs the main subject to be present. In the correct version, the main subject “Philip”, and the verbs “had” and “felt”, are added in order to complete the fragment.