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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!


Structure is the general term for how major parts of story, novel, play, or poem are organized. The term encompasses several different smaller terms. Structures establish limitations on sections of a text.

Structure can be easiest to recognize in plays and poetry. A tragedy such as Hamlet is split into five Acts, and each of the acts contains separate scenes. Each scene takes place at one location. Acts are more conceptual in meaning. In Hamlet, each Act marks a different level of progress in Hamlet’s quest for revenge. 

Poems traditionally follow a strict structure that may determine the size, shape, and number of stanzas (groupings of text), as well as the format of the lines. If a poem follows a meter or rhyme scheme, that poem has a structure. Free verse is poetry that does not follow meter or rhyme scheme, but it may possess its own unique structure.

We can learn to recognize structure in stories and novels as well. Just as nonfiction writing has structures such as the 5-paragraph essay, the book review, and the research paper, fiction can create structures to produce effects on the reader. For instance, a short story may be split into sections to control reading pace, or indicate the passage of time. The structure of a story might also have a metaphorical meaning, such as in the David Mitchell novel Cloud Atlas. Each story in this book is nested inside another story, splitting it in half. This structure encourages readers to seek parallels between these stories, which are set in different places and times.

Structure in general: The structure of a football game is four quarters of play, separated in the middle by halftime. The two teams take turns trying to score, and they can score different amounts of points in different ways. Thanks to this format, football games feature quick, outrageous turns of fortune, which then can be answered by the opposite team.

Structure in popular culture: The television show Lost used the same episode structure for many of its episodes. Each episode focuses on one character, and we travel between decisions that the character made in the past and decisions that the character faces in the present. The structure suggests that the past decisions weighed heavily on their choices in the present.