Diving into the literary world can be an intimidating thing, all those terms and rules and conventions just longing to trip you up and have you mocked on forums and Reddit. We at Sentient Ink feel your pain, and we’re here to guide you through them one by one. So what is a run-on sentence? And what is a comma splice?
It’s actually pretty simple. A run-on sentence is a sentence with two independent clauses that’s two bits of a sentence that make sense on their own. Kind of like the sentence you just read. But let’s have a look at another one.
I love Sentient Ink they make writing so simple.
What you have there is two independent clauses. If you separate them from each other, they still make perfect sense.
I love Sentient Ink.
Yep, perfect. Who doesn’t?
They make writing so simple.
Again, it makes sense.
So we’ve already stumbled on the first and simplest solution to how to solve that pesky little grammar problem. Just split the run-on sentence into two separate sentences.
I love Sentient Ink. They make writing so simple.
I think most writers go through a stage in their development, in which they fear short sentences. Everything must be long and winding with verbose vocabulary (like the word ‘verbose’) and flowery prose. This simply isn’t the case. Get past it. Sentence length in a story needs to vary or else it will feel either stilted or wandering.
But maybe you don’t want two sentences. Maybe you feel the two points are too closely linked or else the flow of your story works better with one. That’s fine, you still have a couple of options.
I love Sentient Ink; they make writing so simple.
You split the run-on sentence with a semi-colon. This tends to imply causality in much the same way inserting the word ‘because’ would. Which brings us to our next point.
I love Sentient Ink, because they make writing so simple.
Throw in a conjunction. Because, and, although, whatever is most appropriate.
So we’ve covered ‘what is a run-on sentence?’ We’ve covered how to fix it. Now let’s have a look at a few ‘do nots’. First up, what is a comma splice?
I love Sentient Ink, they make writing so simple.
A comma feels like the most natural way to avoid run-on sentences to many new writers, but all it does is create a comma splice. It’s looked down upon and, while it’s hardly a cardinal sin, agents and publishers may not like it and anything that gives them an excuse to say no is something to desperately avoid. Commas do have their place in preventing run-on sentences, but they come must come bearing conjunctions as in the previous example, which used ‘because’.
Colons tend to come before lists or provide an example after of what you described before. And dashes…well dashes are tricky. We’ll talk about them elsewhere, but it really comes down to your own ‘house style’. Consistency is vital.
So what is a run-on sentence? A sentence that can be split into two (or more) sentences, with two (or more) independent clauses. How do you fix a run-on sentence? Use a conjunction or a semi-colon or just split it into two (or more) sentences. What is a comma splice? It is the use of a comma to split two independent clauses and it is generally frowned upon.
We hope you’ve found this little writing guide useful and you’re a little clearer on what run-on sentences and comma splices are. For a little more guidance on the nitty gritty bits, check out our guide to writing dialogue. Or else get started with your novel with our writing guides on how to physically write a novel and writing an effective first chapter.
By Chris Wright
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