Article of the Week

Run-On Sentences

Run-on sentences occur when writers try to combine more than one idea into a single sentence. They cause confusion because readers are not sure when one idea ends and the next one begins. Read our entry and test your knowledge with our quiz!

Sentence Clarity

Writing clear sentences is an important skill for good writing. There are several things you can do to improve your sentence clarity.
  1. General to Specific Information
  2. Using Transitional Words
  3. Using Active Voice
  4. Avoiding Double Negatives
  5. Revising Run-On Sentences
  6. Moving Information Out of Prepositional Phrases

Go from general information to specific information.

Example: One of my favorite movies is Casablanca.

This sentence begins with the general topic of favorite movies before moving to more specific information (that your favorite movie is Casablanca).

Use transitional words.

Example: She loves the crisp fall weather, but she dreads the cold winter that is coming.

This sentence uses the word “but” to move smoothly between the two ideas in the sentence and indicate contrast, since the two ideas contain different emotions. See our page on transitions for more information.

Use active voice.

Unclear Example: A book about the migration patterns of birds was written by Kevin.

This sentence is unclear because the book is the subject of the sentence but it is not performing any action. A better version would be:

Clear Example: Kevin wrote a book about the migration patterns of birds.

Here, the subject (Kevin) is performing the action of the verb (wrote). For more information, please read our page on active and passive voice.

Avoid double negatives.

Incorrect Example: Fewer people stay away from large amusement parks on holidays.

This sentence is confusing because of the double negative (fewer and stay away). A better version would be:

Correct Example: Many people go to amusement parks on holidays.

Removing the double negative makes this sentence’s meaning much clearer.

Use simple sentences and proper punctuation to avoid creating run-on sentences.

Incorrect Example: Jacob ran in the door knocked out the assassin and saved Emilia’s pet goldfish.

This sentence is not clear because the reader is not sure who is doing the other actions. Commas can help separate the different actions:

Correct Example: Jacob ran in the door, knocked out the assassin, and saved Emilia’s pet goldfish.

See our entries on commas and on semicolons and colons for more information.

Don’t hide your subject in a prepositional phrase.

Incorrect Example: In this paper, it will argue that dependence on oil hurts our economy and national security.

This sentence is redundant because the subject of the sentence is the pronoun “it”, which stands for the noun “paper,” currently buried in a prepositional phrase.

Correct Example: This paper argues that dependence on oil hurts our economy and national security.