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  1. jamesE
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    jamesE Member

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    Is this a run on sentence?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by jamesE, Sep 28, 2011.

    And if it is, how can i fix it?

    And it is said by many, that by the Witch King's magic, in reward for William's righteousness and moral strength, or perhaps by some deeper magic still, that the spirit of Samuel's friend Max lived on in Jo, the life force of Father endured in Mary, and that the essence of Samantha, thrived in Ellen.

    Perhaps a well place em dash or two would help? thanks :)
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that that sentence needs to be cut into several sentences.

    I'd also cut what I see as a "thesaurus replacement" - you have "lived on", "endured", and "thrived", and also "spirit", "life force" and "essence". I assume that this was because you needed to say essentially the same thing three times and you didn't want to use the same words. But it _is_ the same thing, so tucking in all those synonyms produces confusion, IMO.

    My first cut at a rewrite would be:

    Many said that he was blessed with magic, either inborn or as a reward. His children were said to be the living reincarnation of the beloved dead -- Max's spirit lived on in Jo, Father in Mary, and Samantha in Ellen.

    ChickenFreak
     
  3. jamesE
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    jamesE Member

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    chicken, I am unfamiliar with the term "thesaurus replacement". Can you tell me more about it?

    (btw this is the last sentence in the story)
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    By "thesaurus replacement" I mean that you seem to be using synonyms to avoid using the same word repeatedly, but you still need the same _concept_ repeatedly, so the use of different words feels rather artificial. I'm not saying that you actually went to a thesaurus to find the words, but people often do.

    When you say "lived on", "endured", and "thrived", do you really mean, for example, that Father had a rather struggling and unhappy existence, while Samantha's was happier and more successful, or are you just looking for different ways to say "lived on"?
     
  5. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    fragment And it is said by many, that by the Witch King's magic, in reward for William's righteousness and moral strength, or perhaps by some deeper magic still, that the spirit of Samuel's friend Max lived on in Jo, the life force of Father endured in Mary, and that the essence of Samantha, thrived in Ellen. overlong, run-on sentence

    To avoid above, I recommend something along the lines of:
    It was said by many that through the Witch King's magic the spirit of Samuel's friend Max lived on in Jo, the life force of the Father endured in Mary, and that of Samantha continued in Ellen. This was a gift given in reward for William's righteousness and moral strength.

    As CF says, there is really far too much hyperbole for most readers to stomach. I suggest you translate into clear English and repeat less. And who is the Father and the Witch King? Are they all one and the same person, King William? Really unclear and unwise to throw three names for the same person into one short paragraph, if so--stick to the same term of referring to a character.
     
  6. skeloboy_97
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    skeloboy_97 Senior Member

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    What Chicken is saying, is use your own words.

     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The sentence is not a run on. With the leading "And", it is not even a sentence. Without it, it is an unwieldy mess. As others have pointed out, it needs to be broken up.

    A run on sentence is two or more sentences improperly divided, this is a type of run on sentence known as a comma splice.
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It isn't a run-on. If you insist on one sentence:

    It is said by many that in reward for William's righteousness and moral strength, by the Witch King's magic, or perhaps by some deeper magic still, the spirit of Samuel's friend Max lived on in Jo, the life force of the Father endured in Mary, and the essence of Samantha thrived in Ellen.
     
  9. ShortBus
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    im a bit of an idiot so this is the way i think about sentences with commas. when you use 2 commas in a sentence in between those 2 commas you can take that part of the sentence out completely and the sentence will still make sense.

    And it is said by many, that by the Witch King's magic, in reward for William's righteousness and moral strength, or perhaps by some deeper magic still, that the spirit of Samuel's friend Max lived on in Jo, the life force of Father endured in Mary, and that the essence of Samantha, thrived in Ellen.

    your 1st comma shouldnt be there

    And it is said by many that by the Witch King's magic, in reward for William's righteousness and moral strength, or perhaps by some deeper magic still, that the spirit of Samuel's friend Max lived on in Jo, the life force of Father endured in Mary, and that the essence of Samantha, thrived in Ellen.

    or the 3rd.

    And it is said by many that by the Witch King's magic, in reward for William's righteousness and moral strength or perhaps by some deeper magic still, that the spirit of Samuel's friend Max lived on in Jo. The life force of Father, endured in Mary, and that the essence of Samantha thrived in Ellen.

    you'll have to fix the last sentence. i didnt want to change any of your word.

    if you dont read what is underlined the sentence should still make sense. but again i really dont know what im talking about. but i do think you can rewrite that and say the exact same thing but split it up a bit.

    edit: i think if you make it "So it is said by many" instead of "and it was said by many" then it will become a "real" sentence. ☺
     
  10. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not always so. That's a good test for what are termed parenthetic clauses, but there can be other reasons for 2 commas in a sentence.
     
  11. Smythe
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    Looking at the original sentence, there are too many commas. Not to be mean, but it's a [bad] sentence. There is too much information to be contained in that manner - there are just too many words before we get to the important part.

    "It is said" or "many say" - don't merge the two.

    The last comma is unecessary .

    How I would rewrite that:
    "It is said, that in reward for William's righteousness and moral strength, the Witch King, or perhaps some deeper magic, bade Max's spirit live on in Jo, Father's in Mary, and Samantha's in Ellen."
    or
    "Many say, that by the Witch Kings' magic,the spirit of Samuel's friend Max lived on in Jo, the spirit of Father in Mary, and the spirit of Samantha in Ellen, in reward for William's righteousness and moral strength."
     
  12. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not a run on, and don't worry about the "and" at the beginning because that is normal in all but the most formal written English. The problems are that it's an effort to follow what's going on, "that" is duplicated, and there are too many commas. People who enjoy reading Virginia Woolfe would have no problem with that effort, but for a wider readership you should simplify it.

    First step, find the core sentence (and get rid of the "elegant variation", and the repetition of "by", which incidentally gets rid of a passive):
    And many say that by the Witch King's magic the spirit of Samuel's friend Max lived on in Jo, the spirit of Father in Mary, and the spirit of Samantha in Ellen.​
    (Yes, I would keep the Oxford comma for clarity.)

    Now we need to fit in "in reward for William's righteousness and moral strength" and "or perhaps by some deeper magic still". The first can go in as a parenthetic clause where you had it originally, so:
    And many say that by the Witch King's magic, in reward for William's righteousness and moral strength, the spirit of Samuel's friend Max lived on in Jo, the spirit of Father in Mary, and the spirit of Samantha in Ellen.​


    That's a long sentence, but I have no problem with there being some long sentences. I think it's too long to add in yet another clause, the one about the deeper magic, so I'd put that in another sentence.
    And many say that by the Witch King's magic, in reward for William's righteousness and moral strength, the spirit of Samuel's friend Max lived on in Jo, the spirit of Father in Mary, and the spirit of Samantha in Ellen. Some said it was deeper magic still.​


    Now the short sentence is in contrast to the long one, which I like because it foregrounds the "deeper magic" so I'd keep that unless I could establish elsewhere who Max was, so I could get rid of "Samuel's friend":
    And many say that by the Witch King's magic, in reward for William's righteousness and moral strength, the spirit of Max lived on in Jo, the spirit of Father in Mary, and the spirit of Samantha in Ellen. Some said it was deeper magic still.​


    Instead of a 55 word sentence we now have a 38 word sentence and a 7 word sentence, it's more active, easier to follow, and we have a contrast and an emphasis in an interesting place.

    Now go and do it your way, not mine :D

    I don't think you need the comma after "say" or "said", because you are not introducing direct speech. US rules might not be what I expect, though.

    Your rewrite does highlight an ambiguity that I struggled with. Would the deeper magic be in reward for William's righteousness and moral strength, or is it just the Witch King's response that would be a reward? If it wasn't the Witch King's doing we presumably don't know the motivation, which is why I separated the deeper magic from the reward. In the original sentence it was unclear, though, so your including it as the reward is consistent with the original too.
     
  13. jamesE
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    jamesE Member

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    Cogito i was also taught in school not to begin a sentence with and, but, or so. But every single writer that i have read (from the most famous, downwards) ignores this rule completely and breaks it many times over. So i follow their lead, and i don't keep this 'rule'.
     
  14. Quezacotl
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    Quezacotl Contributing Member

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    Without context, the 'And' at the beginning is unnecessary and confusing. On its own, this excerpt would read better if you started at 'It' and split this sentence up.
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I quote from Fowler: "There is a persistent belief that it is improper to begin a sentence with And, but this prohibition has been cheerfully ignored by standard authors from Anglo-Saxon times onwards. An initial And is a useful aid to writers as the narrative continues. The [Oxford English Dictionary] provides examples from the 9c. to the 19c., including one from Shakespeare's King John..."

    I think the rule was invented and is promoted by people who want the language to be logical, but it isn't, I doubt it ever will be, and I don't think it would be beneficial if it were. Frankly, if an editor rejects you for beginning a sentence with And they're just looking for excuses. Although if you begin every sentence with And they probably have a point.
     

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