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!



Fragments

Fragments are incomplete sentences. In order for a sentence to be complete, it must have a subject and a verb:

Incorrect: And the big fat dog.

Incorrect: The birds sitting on the telephone wire.

Incorrect: Poking a hibernating grizzly bear.

These  not a complete sentence because there is no verb in the first two examples, and no subject in the third. These phrase all require additional wording to express a complete thought.

Correct: I saw two skinny cats and the big fat dog.

Correct: The birds sitting on the telephone wire started squawking at 5:00 am and woke me up.

Correct: My biggest regret in life was poking a hibernating grizzly bear.

These are correct sentences because they all contain both a subject and a verb. A sentence always contains one or more independent clauses--noun and verb combinations that make sense without any additional text. 


Be careful with words like “because” or “since.” These words are used to clarify the “why?” relationship between two ideas, and if you don’t include both of those ideas in a “because” sentence, it becomes a fragment. “I went to the beach because I felt like swimming” is a complete sentence, but “because I felt like swimming” is not. 

Independent Clause: I went to the beach.

Dependent Clause: because I felt like swimming. 

The second part of the sentence is a dependent clause because it contains the word "because." That word links the rest of the thought to a chain of causation that must be completed in order for the thought to be finished. Because I felt like swimming, what did I do? I went to the beach.  Visit our article on complex sentences for more information on independent and dependent clauses.


Note that this dependent clause can be transformed into an independent clause by removing the word "because."

Example: I went to the beach. I felt like swimming.

This example is technically correct, but makes for weak communication. Readers may notice that the two ideas are linked, but not fully understand or trust that linkage.