Run-On Sentence

Definition of Run-On Sentence

A run-on sentence is a combination of two independent clauses, joined together without a conjunction or punctuation mark. Both of these independent clauses form a complete sense or thought; however, when they group together, they need proper punctuation for clarity. For instance, “It is now ten we cannot go there before early morning.” Generally, it is considered grammatically incorrect, and called a stylistic error; there are many examples of run-on sentence used as a literary device in literature. However, remember all long sentences are not run-on sentences, for it is quite acceptable to combine different related ideas into a compound sentence; nevertheless, without using appropriate punctuation rules, a compound sentence becomes a run-on sentence.

Types of Run-On Sentence

Comma Splice Run-On Sentence

In this type, a comma splits two independent clauses. However, the position of this comma is a bit weak to make a complete relationship between two complete sentences. Thus, it requires a proper coordinating conjunction to make a relationship. For instance:

Comma Splice: People are mingling, everybody looked so happy.

Fused Sentence

It occurs when a writer connects two clauses with no punctuation where main clause can make a proper sense and you would not find them smashed together, for instance:

“A wise man makes his own decisions an ignorant man follows public opinion.”

Examples of Run-On Sentence from Literature

Example 1

“But then they were married (she felt awful about being pregnant before but Harry had been talking about marriage for a while and anyway laughed when she told him in early February about missing her period and said Great she was terribly frightened and he said Great and lifted her put his arms around under her bottom…she was still little clumsy dark-complected Janice Springer and her husband was a conceited lunk who wasn’t good for anything in the world Daddy said and the feeling of being alone would melt a little with a little drink.”

(From “Rabbit, Run” by John Updike)

This passage presents an example of fused run-on sentences where author has not used commas to separate the sentences; however, the sentences can make proper thought.

Example 2

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

(From “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens)

This excerpt is a good example of comma splices, where we can clearly see the use of commas separating the clauses, yet there is no use of conjunction to form a complete sense or thought.

Example 3

” . . . I hate people that have always their poor story to tell everybody has their own troubles that poor Nancy Blake died a month ago of acute pneumonia well I didn’t know her so well as all that she was Floeys friend more than mine . . .”

(From “Ulysses” by James Joyce)

This novel is a very popular for using run-on sentences. Now notice in this example, Joyce has used fused sentence with no commas. Though understandable but not meaning is not clear.

Example 4

“My God the cigar what would your mother say if she found a blister on her mantel just in time too look here Quentin we’re about to do something we’ll both regret I like you liked you as soon as I saw you I says he must be …”

(From “The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner)

This excerpt is a perfect example of fused run-on sentences, where we find neither commas nor use of conjunction that could separate the clauses and gives clarity to this passage.

Function of Run-On Sentence

Though it is not a good idea to use run-on sentence in writing, the poets and writers sometimes use it for repeating something important, or for imitating the speaking style of the people. Despite that, run-on sentence is usually incorrect, because it makes their writing too difficult and intricate to understand. However, intentional use of run-on sentence creates special effects in colloquial speech and informal contexts.