Tag Archives: run-on sentences

Sentence Quiz

What do these three sentences have in common?

I looked into the closet, it was empty.

Krepps jerked his head from side to side, then he ran across the parking lot.

We were worried about rain, however, the weather was beautiful for our open house.

Answer: They’re all run-on sentences. (Other names for this error are fused sentence and comma splice.)

Here are a few principles to live by. (They’re easy to learn, and they can save you from many errors!)

  1. Don’t use a comma to join two sentences.
  2. Here’s how to tell if you have two sentences: Look at the beginning. If it starts with a person,  place, or thing – it’s a sentence. Use a period.
  3. There are only seven words that you can use with a comma to join sentences: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So (the FANBOYS words)
  4. In real-world writing, most people use only two of these words: And, But.

Let’s fix today’s sentences. (It’s easy – just use a period!)

I looked into the closet. It was empty.  CORRECT

Krepps jerked his head from side to side. Then he ran across the parking lot.  CORRECT

We were worried about rain. However, the weather was beautiful for our open house.  CORRECT

You can download and print a free handout explaining comma rules at this link: http://bit.ly/EasyCommas

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Avoiding Run-on Sentences

Be careful not to use run-on sentences in your reports. Omitting the period at the end of a sentence–or mistakenly thinking a comma will do the job–is a serious error.

Here’s a quick run-on sentence activity for you to try: Can you tell which examples are run-on sentences?

1.  After I called for a backup, Officer Bailey radioed me.

2.  The ambulance arrived, it was too late to save her.

3.  Chain of custody is an important criminal justice concept that you should know.

ANSWERS

1.  After I called for a backup, Officer Bailey radioed me.  CORRECT

2.  The ambulance arrived. It was too late to save her.  RUN-ON (Here’s a handy rule: If it starts with “it,” it’s a sentence.)

3.  Chain of custody is an important criminal justice concept that you should know.  CORRECT

 

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Look at the Beginning of a Sentence

Signs of possible sentence problems often show up at the beginning of a sentence. Here are four tips you’ll use again and again:

1.  Anything that begins with a person, place, or thing is probably a real sentence and should end with a period.

Donna had questions about my report.  SENTENCE

If it doesn’t begin with a person, place, or thing, it’s probably an extra idea and should a) end with a comma and b) be attached to a real sentence.

Because Donna had questions about my report,  EXTRA IDEA

Because Donna had questions about my report, I decided to revise it.  SENTENCE

(Click here to read about Comma Rule 1.)

2.  Remember that it is a thing. Here’s a handy rule of thumb: If it starts with it, it’s a sentence.

I pushed on the door, it wouldn’t open.  INCORRECT

I pushed on the door. It wouldn’t open. CORRECT

3.  The beginning of the sentence usually tells you who or what the sentence is about. That information will make you more likely to get the rest of the sentence right.

Use of illegal substances (has/have) increased in this county.

Focus on the word use, and you’ll know immediately that the verb should be has. [Use…has]

Use of illegal substances has increased in this county. CORRECT

(Click here to read about Subject-Verb Agreement Rule 4.)

4.  Be especially careful about starting sentences with -ing words. Of course it’s correct to start a sentence with a word ending in -ing: But you risk writing a sentence fragment or a dangling modifier.

Buttoning his jacket as he ran to his car.  FRAGMENT

He was buttoning his jacket as he ran to his car. CORRECT

Buttoning his jacket, his cell phone fell out of the pocket.  DANGLING MODIFIER

While he was buttoning his jacket, his cell phone fell out of the pocket. CORRECT

If you’re interested in improving your writing, one practice that will pay off again and again is to simply look at the beginning of a sentence and think about possible problems. Try it!

 

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The Run-On Sentence Problem

A run-on sentence is a serious writing problem that every officer wants to avoid. So…how do you know you’ve written a run-on, and how can you fix one that finds its way into a report you’ve written?

First, a definition. A run-on is a sentence that needs a period. Here’s an example:

I knocked on the door Sam Clinton opened it.  RUN-ON

You can always fix a run-on sentence with a period. Here’s the corrected sentence:

I knocked on the door. Sam Clinton opened it. CORRECT

Don’t be fooled into thinking that every long sentence is a run-on. That’s not true. For example, although the sentence you’re reading right now is too long, in my opinion, there’s no place where it needs a period, so technically it’s not a run-on.

How can you avoid writing a run-on sentence? I think you can answer that question yourself: Use a period when you come to the end of a sentence. Don’t take a breath and keep going!

Charlene talked quietly to Mrs. Wilson I took Mr. Wilson into the dining room.  INCORRECT

Charlene talked quietly to Mrs. Wilson. I took Mr. Wilson into the dining room. CORRECT

Here’s another don’t-be-fooled tip: Don’t put a comma at the end of a sentence. Use a comma at the end of an extra idea. Use a period at the end of a sentence.

While Charlene talked quietly to Mrs. Wilson, EXTRA IDEA

While Charlene talked quietly to Mrs. Wilson,  I took Mr. Wilson into the dining room. CORRECT

(Comma Rule 1 is a huge help with this issue. Click here to learn more.)

Everything you say or write is either an extra idea (with a comma) or a sentence (with a period). Practice hearing the difference, and you’ll see a huge improvement in your sentences. That’s a guarantee!

 

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