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The Run-On Sentence
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Tired Documents and The Run-On Sentence

by Antoinette M. Franks, CET

Everyone has heard of the ominous run-on sentence and has a basic understanding of what that is. It's exactly as it sounds, a sentence that runs on unnecessarily but should be broken down into multiple sentences. However, when referring to the term "comma splice," not so many are as familiar or even know what it is.

So what is a comma splice? A comma splice is, quite simply, a run-on sentence that uses the comma to connect two independent clauses. Many people can be what I refer to as comma happy and, oftentimes, fall victim to this type of run-on sentence thinking that you can connect almost anything with the use of a comma. Just because you can actually insert a comma doesn't mean you should. You can cause a sentence to "run on" for an eternity with the use of commas. The rule of thumb to avoid or minimize this is if a clause can stand alone, either let it remain on its own "two feet" or opt to use stronger punctuation, such as a semicolon or period.

The most common characteristic of a comma splice other than the independent clauses is the need for the use of a conjunction. If you find yourself frequently using the "three-letter" conjunctions and a comma -- and, but, for, nor, yet, or, so -- you will probably find that you have caused a run-on sentence or two with the use of a comma splice. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that if you reduce your use of these conjunctions paired with the comma, you will minimize your creation of a run-on sentence by way of a comma splice.

Examples of a comma splice:
  • It's hot outside, so put on some shorts.
  • I didn't get much sleep last night, however, if I take a nap today, I should be fine.
  • My son is very unorganized, and he constantly misplaces things.
  • The temperature is starting to drop, and I do believe Mother Nature is changing seasons.
In every example above, there is the option to use a stronger punctuation to avoid this. So remember, while the comma seems to be the "public favorite" and allow us to run on forever, it is not always the best choice.


By Antoinette Franks, AAERT Certified Electronic Transcriber



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