1. Nati
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    Nati Member

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    Run-On Sentences

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Nati, Feb 8, 2008.

    I've been confused about this for awhile. In school, I remember being taught that it's wrong to use run-on sentences (two ands in one). I know that many things that school taught us is wrong. I've seen that many writers use run-on sentences.

    So are we allowed to use run-on sentences? Is there a right and wrong way?
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you're 'allowed' to use whatever you want... there are no laws governing how a writer can write... what matters is whether it works or not... and a good writer can make even a run-on sentence work well, when a lesser one can't... it's only a matter of what you write and how...
     
  3. AWR
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    AWR Member

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    That's how I see it too. There are rules to follow and mostly, I believe, its good to follow them. But knowing the rules doesn't mean you can't break them when it serves the story. And I think thats the crux ... does it serve the telling of the story?
     
  4. Charisma
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    Charisma Transposon Contributor

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    Basically, in professional writing, rules do not matter. For example, in school we are not allowed to start a sentence with 'But and 'And', and usage of slangs in a dialogue to give personality are not allowed. But when you come to writing on your own, since you are now adding to the language, these rules do not matter. This is not law of a country or religion which is unchangeable, it's simply language which keeps changing.
    Language is how you communicate and express yourself. If it were bound by rules, we could not improve it or use it in our own way of expression. As time has passed, our lifestyles, mind sets, desires and beliefs have changed a little. Language has to evolve alogn with the human race to suit the needs of modern man. So, when we move to professional or independent writing, we no longer adhere to rules, so that our expression is not blocked. Of course, sometimes it's best you follow the rules - because you can't always write a perfect piece of writing without following the rules.
     
  5. Montag
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    Montag Senior Member

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    I feel pretty much the same. The way I see it, not using things like run-on sentences, incomplete sentences, starting with 'and', 'but' or other 'forbidden' words might be true for some stuff, like letters, buisness reports, essays and stuff like that, but not for fiction writing, especially when it is used to expand a character's dialogue or thought.

    I have noticed I regularly break the 'rules' I was taught in highschool, but I like the result, and thats all that matters.
     
  6. DavidGil
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    DavidGil Senior Member

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    I learned a new term yesterday in writing class, skaz. Anyone heard of it?

    It's basically a term thought of to mean, you write how the character would speak. What was shown to illustrate what the term meant was an excerpt from Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down.

    Anyway, when Ringo joined, you sort of felt this little shiver, because that was it, then, that was the four of them, and they were ready to go off and be the most famous group in history. Well, that's how I felt when JJ turned up on the roof, with his pizzas. I know you'll think, Oh, she's just saying that because it sounds good, but I'm not.

    Alright, it's not about run-on sentences. But there is a 'rule' broken. You have a capital letter in there when there's no name or new sentence started (it's broken several times within the two paragraphs shown). The story though I've never read it, is told from 3 other different point of views. Anyways, I went to work on my own version of 'skaz' in writing class and it's not very good but this is what I came up with:

    When I were abou' thirteen, I 'member arguin' with me pa. I 'member it were kinda daf' now I look back on it. It were one of those thin's where you thin' after, what were we even arguin' abou'?

    (there was another paragraph I wrote but no need to show it. I was undecided about the use of ' by the way, to abbreviate the words. But it was worked up very quickly anyway. I had like... 5 minutes or so.)

    Anyways, the point is: Breaking some of the rules can present a character better in my eyes as long as it's pertinent. Besides, the best, classical writing breaks the rules no? And tries to be unique? Not that I've read any but they're on my list.

    So I think as long as it works, it's all good like others have said. But I cannot stress the fact that I think a lot of writing where the rules are broken are done so unknowingly.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    never hoida 'skaz'... googling, i find it's of russian origin... interesting bits of info just on the first page of hits alone!...

    skaz - Google Search
     
  8. Nati
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    Nati Member

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    All right guys, thank you for answering my question. Now things are much more clear.

    And skaz? Interesting, I've never heard of that term until now.
     
  9. Milady
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    Milady Contributing Member

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    I once read a short story that was a single run-on sentence. Quite disconcerting, but a little endearing when you realize the main character was a six-year-old.

    My point is, like the rest said, rules are made to be broken. As long as it is reasonably easy to read and adds something to the story, I say go for it.
     
  10. LinRobinson
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    LinRobinson Banned

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    People are making a common mistake of confusing a "run on" sentence with a sentence that is merely very long.

    There is absolutely NO justification behind the idea that a sentence is run on if it has more than one "and". I'm shocked that an English teacher would say such a thing.

    Having a short story (or even a novel) consist of one sentence has been done (I can think of a story by Gabriel Garcia Marques offhand) and there is nothing grammatically wrong with it. I wrote a one-sentence story a few weeks ago for a webzine for kicks.

    What make a sentence run-on is a violation of the same rules as what constitutes a sentence in the first place: a complete idea. "I ran and ran and ran and ran" is not a run on sentence. "Ran and ran" is not a sentence because it lacks the subject noun that makes a complete thought.
    "I ran and ran she laughed." is a run on sentence because two complete sentences are joined without punctuation or conjuction. Put "and" between "ran" and "she" and it's no longer a runon sentence, just compound. Put a comma there and it's still a run-on sentence. Put in a colon and voila, it's a compound sentence again. Go figure.

    I see a lot of this in newbie writing. (Maybe because English teachers no longer know what they're talking about?) It's something that should be read for: get it down by scrutiny and it starts becoming part of your style to wrap one sentence up, then start another.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It is true that a run-on sentence is not the same as one with clause after clause after clause. However, excessively long sentences are nearly always a bad choice, even when grammatically correct. Yes, it has been done, and successfully, which is why I say "nearly always" instead of "always".

    Keep it clear, keep it simple. Just because you CAN construnct a monstrously long and convoluted sentence does not mean you should.
     
  12. LinRobinson
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    LinRobinson Banned

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    ................
     
  13. LinRobinson
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    .....
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Specious argument (and leave out the ad hominem putdowns, if you please). Art instructors do indeed provide guidelines about placement of picture elements, avoiding both overly busy compositions or compositions with broad empty space. They do give advice about effective balance between light and shadow, and on the effects of different color combinations.

    You say
    Agian, the implied insult to anyone who dares suggest that such phrases are a poor choice, with no regard to the context in which such an objection may be raised.

    If I see a story in which such fragments are used to an extent that they make the story seem choppy and amateurish, I will point that out. I would not be doing the writer any favors if I did not.

    If you have constructive suggestions, by all means offer them, without taking shots at those who disagree.

    When you point out what is and is not a run-on sentence, that is helpful.

    When you point out literary works that demontrate an effective use of heavily compounded sentences, that too is useful, although quoting specific illustrative sentences would be much more helpful.

    When you belittle those who state a guideline, you are being aggressive.

    That is a guideline you should pay heed to.
     
  15. LinRobinson
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    LinRobinson Banned

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  16. EyezForYou
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    Hmm... I suggest you be careful.

    You will be banned like that one fifteen-year-old kid who overdosed on prescription pill because he couldn't handle a little censorship.

    Learn to encourage beginning writers, not belittle them.

    You give positive feedback regardless if the story is absolute dreg or not.
     
  17. LinRobinson
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    LinRobinson Banned

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    That's exactly what I'm doing, actually. I'm not belittling anybody, but I'm supporting the idea that a writer's choices are of greater significance than somebody else's rules of engagement.
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    On this we agree. The writer's choice may be effective or it may not, but it is up to the writer to make the decision.

    However, the rules or guidelines are in place so the writer has a framework within which to make such choices. When a writer chooses to deviate from the well-travelled path, he or she should be aware of what some of the consequences of that choice may be.

    Yes, rules are generalizations. Yes, there are many examples of successful writing that violate nearly every guideline that is set forth.

    However, those guidelines remain good advice for most writers to at least be aware of.

    And when you apply derogative or dismissive labels, such as "anal grammar vulture", to those who present those guidelines, you are being aggressive and confrontational, regardless of whether you name any particular person. So leave those characterizations out of your posts.

    You can call it pussy-footing around, and being politically correct. I call it common courtesy, and respect for other members of the forum.
     
  19. LinRobinson
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    LinRobinson Banned

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  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It stops now. I am not playing games with you.
     
  21. Anthro
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    Anthro New Member

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    As a writer, you can do whatever you want. And I won't say that run-on sentences work sometimes.

    The only thing I would caution against is using them constantly. I read one book that was composed almost entirely of run-on sentences, and to be frank, by the end, I was paying more attention to how many sentences there were per paragraph (usually about one that managed to take up four lines). I find them distracting and ultimately unattractive.

    But to each their own; if you love them and believe you can write successfully using them, by all means, go for it. Your work shouldn't be governed by others.
     
  22. The_Plight
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    The_Plight Member

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    What book was this?
     
  23. Wintermute
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    Wintermute Banned

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    I hate to revive a dead thread, but I think people need a brush up on elementary English.

    Here are a few examples of sentences:

    Janice and Maury and Will were not only deceptive and infantile, but also downright obnoxious and rude.

    This is not a Run-On sentence. This is what is called a simple sentence. It is an independant clause, with a complex subject (Noun) and a predicate (Verb). "And" serves as a standard conjunction between words, not clauses.

    "Despite its reputation, America is a great country."

    This is what is known as a complex sentence. It is a dependant clause and an independant clause seperated by a comma.

    "America is a great country to live in and it is full of wonder."

    This is a compound sentence. It is two independant clauses seperated by a coordinating conjunction.

    "Despite its reputation, America is a great country; it is comprised of luxorious lifestyles and eclectic cultures."

    This is what is known as a compound-complex sentence. It is two independant clauses and a dependant clause.

    All of the above sentences are gramatically correct, albeit horrible examples (I've exhausted my creativity for the day). Here is an example of a run-on sentence:

    "Jill is a good friend, I really like her."

    This is a comma splice. It is a Run-On sentence because it is two independant clauses seperated by a comma as opposed to a conjunction. Simply adding a conjunction will form a compound sentence, as follows:

    "Jill is a good friend and I really like her."

    People are trying to call "Run-On" sentences poor style without fully understanding what a Run-On sentence is. You are talking about the use of conjunctions and simple sentences, which, if anybody here has ever read Dickens, or Faulkner, or Proust, or the plethora of other amazing authors whose styles you are clearly lambasting, have used simple sentences in a stylistic way and they have WORKED.
     
  24. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, LinRobinson made that point earlier in the thread.
     
  25. Al B
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    Al B Senior Member

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    There is only one rule to follow in an instance such as this, and that is, will it bother your target audience? To explain, many older people were taught very strict rules of grammar and it often annoys them when they (mistakenly) believe that a rule has been broken.

    A good example of this might be in writing advertising copy for a manufacturer of hearing aids. It's a fair bet that a large proportion of people who read such an advert with a view to purchasing one of that company's hearing aids, will be older. That means you should avoid doing things which are generally regarded as acceptable, but which the old school of teaching would have frowned upon, such as starting a sentence with a conjunction, mixing metaphors, splitting infinitives etc.

    When writing for an older audience, or even a young one for that matter, you should always endeavor to talk them in their language, otherwise you risk alientating them, and you wouldn't want an advert to alienate potential customers.

    So in short, if you know the rules, you will know when you can bend or break them, and you will also know when to follow presumed rules too. Rules are for the obedience of fools, and the guidance of wise men, as they say.

    Al
     

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