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When a run-on sentence is the result of putting together two independent clauses joined only by a comma, this is known as a comma splice. And while there are some circumstances in which a comma splice may be considered acceptable, in most cases it is a grammatical error.

 I didn’t have to get up in the morning, I still set my alarm for seven.

He wanted to vacation at the beach, she preferred the idea of a cruise.

She didn’t complete her dissertation on time, her defense must have been postponed until spring.

Faced with this error, there are really only three options:

1.      Join the two clauses together;

2.      Separate them; or

3.      Change one of the independent clauses into a dependent clause.

JOINING the independent clauses together is done with a coordinating conjunction. These are:

  • and
  • but
  • or
  • nor
  • for
  • yet
  • so

 I didn’t have to get up in the morning, yet I still set my alarm for seven.

He wanted to vacation at the beach, but she preferred the idea of a cruise.

She didn’t complete her dissertation on time, so her defense must have been postponed until spring.

SEPARATING the clauses is done by the use of one of four types of punctuation:

  • the period [.]
  • the question mark [?]
  • the exclamation point [!]
  • the semicolon [;]

NOTE that the comma [,] will not accomplish this purpose.

 I didn’t have to get up in the morning; I still set my alarm for seven.

He wanted to vacation at the beach. She preferred the idea of a cruise.

She didn’t complete her dissertation on time? Her defense must have been postponed until spring.

CHANGING one of the clauses into a dependent clause creates one complex sentence that is not a run-on sentence. NOTE that sentences are considered “run-on” not because of the number of words, but because of their structure. In these cases, run-on sentences are corrected by adding words:

 Though I didn’t have to get up in the morning, I still set my alarm for seven.

He wanted to vacation at the beach, although she preferred the idea of a cruise.

Since she didn’t complete her dissertation on time, her defense had to be postponed until spring.

With any of these three solutions, the problem of the comma splice is solved and the sentence is no longer a “run-on.”

 

This article is archived from the original Edits Made Easy website and is re-posted to this new blog under a new date.

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