1. Jack
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    Jack Contributing Member

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    Run-on Sentences and Comma Splice Errors

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Jack, Feb 17, 2009.

    Run-on Sentences and Comma Splice Errors





    This could be made as a sticky. It's entirely up to you.
    I have been browsing around WF, and I've noticed that our members have some difficulties
    with run-on sentences (It's not just us; I’ve seen this happen all the time). Hopefully, by
    following my simple guide, you will be able to avoid run-on sentences.



    What is a run-on sentence?
    A run-on sentence occurs when two or more independent clauses are mistakenly joined
    together without a co-ordinating conjunction or correct punctuation.

    Example: The trip was terrible the car broke down twice and we had to have it towed.

    What is a Comma Splice?
    A comma splice error occurs when two sentences are separated only by a comma.

    Example: The trip was terrible, the car broke down twice and we had to have it towed.

    There are several ways to correct both run-on sentences and comma splice errors.

    Correction:

    The trip was terrible. The car broke down twice.
    The trip was terrible; the car broke down twice.
    The trip was terrible because the car broke down twice.


    --------------------------------------------------
    Here are some more examples:

    Example #1: The grass is soaked, the garden hose was left on too long.
    Correction: The grass is soaked because the garden hose was left on too long.

    Example #2: The sunrise was stunning, the sky was lit up with shades of red, we stood watching silently.
    Correction: The sunrise was stunning; the sky was lit up with shades of red. We stood watching silently.

    Example #3: Watching Wayne Gretzky play hockey was like watching ballet on ice he made everything look easy.
    Correction: Watching Wayne Gretzky play hockey was like watching ballet on ice. He made everything look easy.
     
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  2. Daedalus
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    Daedalus Active Member

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    Jack, mate, you've got two run-on sentences in your above post. :D



    Just for the sake of clarity.
     
  3. Jack
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    Jack Contributing Member

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    Thanks Daedalus and Congrats!

    You are the first one to notice! :p
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    and 'whats' is not a word!... should have an apostrophe in all of those, as they are contractions of 'what is'...

    also, 'asides' in parentheses are not capitalized and a comma is needed after 'hopefully'...

    if you're going to set yourself up as an 'expert' and post 'lessons' you'd best make sure you don't come off as a pretentious upstart who can't even write correctly himself, doncha think? ;-)
     
  5. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    You don't really need the comma after hopefully....that double comma rule is kinda archaic now...
     
  6. Daedalus
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    Daedalus Active Member

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    Okay, I know he made a mistake, but a part of me thinks that he put those in there intentionally. He never claimed to be an expert, nor did he post a lesson. He's just trying to help people with run-on sentences. In that regard, his examples are perfectly fine.

    You're being a little bit harsh, "doncha" think, Maia?
     
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  7. Daedalus
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    Daedalus Active Member

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    Says who? Yes, you do need it. Why? Because the "by following my simple guide" part is an independent clause, and those are set off by commas.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    didn't mean to be 'harsh' but only to make the point that people who want to teach others how to write well [even in just one small area] should at least be good enough at it themselves, to not have any glaring errors in the 'lesson'... why is that 'harsh'?
     
  9. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    I think the word 'pretentious' is thrown around too leisurely in writing forums in general, and in this writing forum in particular.

    His points were valid, regardless of his posts.
    After all, no one mentions the fact that you don't capitalize your sentences, or that an ellipsis requires a space after every dot.
    Why do we not mention these things? Because you are educated and your points are valid, if not sometimes moot. (Moot means 'disputable,' NOT 'void' or 'irrelevant'.)
     
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  10. apathykills
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    apathykills Contributing Member

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    This seems to be the place to post a question i've had for a while now. After being commented on having many run-on sentences in the first piece i published; i looked up the definition in wikapidia.

    The comments were undoubtedly correct but the wiki article stated that some writers don't consider comma splices as run-on sentences.

    Is this some kind of british/american spag dispute?

    I ask because in Israel the semicolon is almost never used and the comma is used instead.

    p.s
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Run-on_sentence
    This is the article.
     
  11. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    I don't know much about it, myself, but regarding the semicolon, it is generally seldom used even in America literature.
    It's one of those things that, if used in excess (and it doesn't take much) becomes very noticeable very quickly.
    (According to most people, anyway)

    I, like Mark Twain, love the semicolon, but have to consciously refrain from using it often.



    Edit: Upon reading the article, I found something very uplifting:
    So long as clauses are punctuated appropriately, a writer can assemble multiple independent clauses in a single sentence; in fact, a properly constructed sentence can be extended indefinitely.




    I have, at times, found myself writing a long sentence and thinking that it MUST be a run-on because of how long it is.
    The problem is that I needed the sentence in its entirety to fully state my point without having to split it into several sentences.

    Personally, I find long sentences to be nice and interesting. Perhaps the 'simple' manner of writing has been taken too literally, and we are losing just a bit of variety by keeping every sentence extremely short.

    I know several people on this forum would say that 'concise' is a word which cannot go wrong, but I must disagree. It is not always the most terse sentence which captures the reader's imagination.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Concise is not the same as terse.

    Concise writing uses as many words as necessary, but no more. It gets to the point without unnecessary excursions, but that does not mean it must be treadbare.

    Concise writing will still build up the support for the structure of the story. If it takes a circuitous route, it does so because the landmarks along that route are relevant to the journey. A concise sentance can still be long, but it will not be longer than it needs to be, keeping in mind that 'need" also takes into account characterization, scene setting, and the pacing of the narrative.

    Concise writing is purposeful writing, and it is always better writing.
     
  13. Lucas Maroon
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    Lucas Maroon New Member

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    I know this was posted in 2007, but it is a sticky and therefore merits this relevant post.

    I disagree with this statement. Have you not heard of purple prose? Terse is a word that can very well describe it as it is not concise at all. In fact, the whole point of purple prose is to draw attention to the writing, create a sensuous environment, and manipulate the emotions of the reader. Many people would consider it unnecessary, or at least superfluous. I know that flowery writing is not an excuse to write needlessly, but it could definitely be condensed into a more concise manner (e.g. minimalism). Minimalism might be its opposite, but it is by only opinion better. I personally enjoy terse writing. I am a bit disappointed when I compare contemporary fiction to Romantic and Victorian literature, which, while not by default examples of purple prose, are definitely more extravagant.

    And proper coma, semicolon, and colon usage is very important in purple prose. It was also very critical in Romantic and Victorian Literature. As was actually having a vocabulary.
     
  14. Daedalus
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    Daedalus Active Member

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    Purple prose, when used by authors who know what they're doing and how to use it properly, is fine. Used by new writers who think it's cool and are trying to show off their wide array of vocabulary, is amateur, pretentious, and grating.

    Do you know what E.B. Whyte and William Strunk Jr's number one rule of writing is? "Omit needless words". Purple prose is oftentimes needless. Concise, well-structured, and strong sentences have a greater effect than line upon line of pointless prose that takes the story nowhere.

    There's an art to writing. It's not just about stringing sentences together with high-faluting words and bombastic language. It's not about describing every single detail to forensic proportions. It's about getting the story across in a way that excites a reader and leaves them with a million questions. Readers have minds of their own. If you tell them that your MC is in a hospital, they'll have a pretty good picture of what that hospital looks like. No need to describe the bedpan, the doctors, or the machines. Hospitals are generic. We know what they look like, and we don't need three pages of description to tell us something that may only have relevance for one chapter.

    Every word of prose should be relevant. When you speak about the weather, it has relevance because it affects your MC, whether by its inconvience or something else. When you speak about a gun in your MC's back pocket, it has relevance. We can extrapolate that your MC obviously has some major issues going on that require the need for a firearm. Consequently, if you speak about a woman smiling to herself as she walks down the street, we must ask ourselves, as readers, why that has relevance to the story. What purpose does the woman serve? If she doesn't serve any purpose, why have her in the story?

    Do you understand? Think of it this way: When you watch a crime show like CSI or Criminal Minds, and the camera zooms in on an item in the first few minutes, you can, to within ninety-nine percent accuracy, bet that that item will have some significance later on. They don't focus on anything that isn't relative to the plot. Just try it. The next time you watch one of those shows, check the side characters out at the start. Chances are you'll be seeing them again in some context before the show ends. If not, they're what's known as "red herrings". These are tricks inserted into a show or novel to throw the reader off the scent of the real killer. When used correctly, they are an extremely effective tool.

    The main point is: Everything must be relevant.
     
  15. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    This could be made as a sticky. Its entirely up to you.
    I’ve been browsing around WF, and I've noticed that our members have some difficulties with run-on sentences (Its not just us; I’ve seen this happen all the time). Hopefully, by following my simple guide, you will be able to avoid run-on sentences.

    I think, I have been, sounds better in this context. Actually, I think, I have, most always sounds better.
     
  16. Vergil
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    Vergil Member

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    I often comma splice. Reading this has made me realise just how often I do it. Even as I'm typing this, I am trying to be grammatically correct, so do correct me if I slip up somewhere. From now, I will try to use the semicolon more, simply because I dislike short sentences. I don't know because I'm just not a fan of them.

    Still, very useful. Thanks
     
  17. Lucas Maroon
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    Lucas Maroon New Member

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    I disagree with this stance on writing. I feel that only including details specific to the MC as s/he progresses through the plot is a large reason why the English language (and many others, I assume) is in my opinion being destroyed. When I read older literature, I have to look up many words in a dictionary. Many people find this annoying, especially in this day and age with bustling technology and busy lives. Isn't it quite ironic that people hate looking up words in a dictionary when all one has to do is go to www.dictionary.com and type the unkown word in the box? I digress. Writing is special as it only uses words to tell a story. Chopping out all but the highly relevent details is an anfront to language itself. I also think it has to do with people's short attention spans. They always want to read the plot and nothing but the MC's progress through it. I think that is a shame. It's just like all other media now. You mentioned CSI. That is a prime example of what I am talking about. It cuts out all the painstaking details, leaving nothing but the drama. The entire show is over in less than thirty minutes, while the entire forensic process can take ideally less than forty-eight hours in a murder up to...well, a case may never be solved. A lot of people fail to realize this. I think authors should stop simplifying language just so people in their hurry can enjoy a "good" story.

    I am not saying that an author should just throw in useless information. The information should always carry some relevance, but the degree of relevance should vary. That is what makes a story interesting. If every author in existence writes with concise minimalism, then I think reading would be very dreadful and pointless. Words are all writing has to offer, and when authors cut more and more out, what is to set it apart from the cinema or television? Plus, the less words used, the fewer that are in a person's dictionary, which means that said person is limited in the ways s/he can express his/herself. I think eventually, if things keep going this way--and I'm not just blaming fiction writers striving to tell their story in the most matter-of-fact way possible as a large problem is Internet slang and cell phone texting--we will not have a very large language, and people will pretty much all talk in the same manner. I believe more authors writing for the sake of commanding their homeland's beautiful language in a captivating manner would solve this problem, instead of simply churning out generic genre fiction.

    Ultimately, though, I blame soceity's construction for this problem. Since we, at least in the United States, live in a capatalist nation, authors need money to live. In order to get money, they must write what readers want to consume. Currently, readers are willing to work less and less to enjoy a "good" story. They are also willing to work less and less to enjoy any sort of art (including cinematography, hence why most movies out now are pure trash). There is a definite lack of appreciation for artists.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i wouldn't advise doing that in fiction...
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Short sentences are terribly underrated.
     
  20. Daedalus
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    Daedalus Active Member

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    Short sentences are useful for moving the story along and ratcheting up tension. Dean Koontz is a master of this technique. He'll use short sentences when conveying the fast movements of the scene and the character, and then, when the reader finally comes to the scary part, he'll use long sentences to convey the sense of rambling that you would associate with a person in a frightening situation. Oh, God, what if I open this door and someone jumps out and I die? I'll never live a happy life ... etcetera.

    Sentences have different techniques and approaches. They can make a scene more tense or more frightening, if used in the proper way.
     
  21. Lucas Maroon
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    Lucas Maroon New Member

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    And monotony is just bad.

    A story comprised completely of short sentences is boring, and is the sign of a structurally talentless writer.
     
  22. Jack
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    Jack Contributing Member

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    Short sentences could be a good or bad thing; it all depends on the way you write it.
    On occasion... short sentences may enhance the 'visual message' of the sentence. Therefore, you can easily identify and visualize the picture/diagram/movie in your head (If... of course the sentences contains specific and accurate details).
     

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