ProWritingAid's sentence length check is one of the most important reports I use for every piece of writing. I have a tendency to write long, flowing sentences that meander around, trying to connect numerous ideas together that perhaps don't belong. (The latter sentence a case in point.)
But did you know that's not a technical run-on sentence? It's more of a run-off-at-the-mouth sentence.
What is a run-on sentence?
A run-on sentence contains two independent clauses that can stand on their own as separate sentences, but have been mangled together without proper connection or punctuation. Run-on sentences aren't necessarily long either.
An example is:
- Run-on: The weather is warm today, you're better off without that heavy coat.
The above example is called a comma-splice. This happens when two independent classes are separated with a simple comma, but no conjunction to join them.
- Run-on: The sun is out this morning to dry the dew, however, there is a chance of rain later this afternoon.
This example shows two independent clauses connected by a transitional expression, but without the appropriate punctuation.
How do you wrestle run-on sentences into shape?
For comma splices, you have two options for correcting a run-on sentence: you can use a period and make two separate sentences, or you can use a conjunction with your comma.
When two complete sentences are connected with a transitional expression (conjunctive adverbs like however, moreover, etc.) such as the second example, you have two options: separate the sentences with a period or use a semicolon to join the two together.
Corrected first example: The weather is warm today. You're better off without that heavy coat.
Corrected second example: The sun is out this morning to dry the dew; however, there is a chance of rain later this afternoon.
The simplest method is to separate your two independent clauses with a period. But that doesn't always create the rhythm you want or present the meaning you're looking for.
Here is an example using different options:
Run-on sentence: I am a woman, I am a construction worker.
Using a period: I am a woman. I am a construction worker.
Connecting with a conjunction: I am a woman, and I am a construction worker.
Connecting with a semicolon and a conjunctive adverb: I am a woman; nevertheless, I am a construction worker.
See how each correction gives different emotion to the sentence(s)? It all depends on your artistic ear and the context you want to convey.
Are run-on sentences not what you thought they were?
How you go about wrestling your run-on sentences into a grammatically correct shape is a matter of your own personal writing style. What sounds best to your ear is a great way to determine how to fix run-on sentences. Just make sure you're not squishing two independent clauses together incorrectly—long or short.