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10th July, 2017

The GP Grammar Guide: Sentences on the run

We love all things grammar at Giles Publications, we would talk about it all day if we could.

Grammar aficionados may have spotted a problem with the previous sentence. It’s one that crops up again and again, even in copy crafted by the most seasoned and professional of writers. It’s potentially one of the most common grammatical mistakes out there—and one of the most frustrating.

The two parts (clauses) of this sentence are standalone (independent):

We love all things grammar at Giles Publications; and

We would talk about it all day if we could.

Stringing the two independent clauses together creates what is known as a run-on sentence. This example also features a comma-splice (the two sentences have been spliced by a comma, as the name suggests).

These can be difficult to spot. For example, the topic of the two sentences above is the same: grammar, and our love of it. Therefore, it’s all too easy to imagine that merging the two would result in a grammatically correct sentence—but that’s not the case. To combine the two correctly, either a conjunction is needed (for example and, or, but, yet, for, and so on)…

We love all things grammar at Giles Publications, and would talk about it all day if we could.

We love all things grammar at Giles Publications, so we would talk about it all day if we could.

…or some kind of punctuation:

We love all things grammar at Giles Publications; we would talk about it all day if we could.

We love all things grammar at Giles Publications. We would talk about it all day if we could.

Long sentences often fall prey to this grammatical misstep, but they needn’t. Long—even excessively long—sentences can run for many lines and be absolutely correct, if a little unwieldy and unpleasant to read. Take the following example which, while somewhat tiring to follow, is not a run-on sentence:

Knowing that millions of people around the world would be watching in person and on television and expecting great things from him—at least one more gold medal for America, if not another world record—during this, his fourth and surely his last appearance in the World Olympics, and realising that his legs could no longer carry him down the runway with the same blazing speed and confidence in making a huge, eye-popping leap that they were capable of a few years ago when he set world records in the 100-metre dash and in the 400-metre relay and won a silver medal in the long jump, the renowned sprinter and track-and-field personality Carl Lewis, who had known pressure from fans and media before but never, even as a professional runner, this kind of pressure, made only a few appearances in races during the few months before the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, partly because he was afraid of raising expectations even higher and he did not want to be distracted by interviews and adoring fans who would follow him into stores and restaurants demanding autographs and photo-opportunities, but mostly because he wanted to conserve his energies and concentrate, like a martial arts expert, on the job at hand: winning his favourite competition, the long jump, and bringing home another Gold Medal for the United States, the most fitting conclusion to his brilliant career in track and field. Source

Can you spot the run-on sentences below? Some might be just fine as they are, so watch out.

1. Johnny really loves dogs, he has a labrador.

2. Stephanie seemed upset; I knew she needed comforting.

3. My boss read my copy she thought it was excellent.

4. The largest tree by volume in the world is the General Sherman Sequoia, it is a little over 52,500 cubic feet.

5. I told my roommate I would be late, he still locked me out.

6. Janice loves to read; she goes to the library often.

7. There is nothing better for a cold than a hot whisky and a big box of chocolates.

8. I will never fly again it is far too bad for the environment.

9. She never walks anywhere she is really lazy.

10. Given his ineptitude with a food mixer, the meal was a surprising success.

Some examples taken from here, here, and here.

 

Answers: 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9 are run-on sentences. The others are correct.

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