Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Run-On Sentences (1).

Run-On Sentences (1). Today: The Definitions. Run-on sentences do not stop where they should. The problem usually occurs when the writer is uncertain how to handle punctuation or how to handle such adverbs as “however” and “otherwise,” which are often mistakenly treated as conjunctions. Some grammarians distinguish between a “run-on sentence” (or “fused sentence”) and a “comma splice” (or “run-together sentence”). In a run-on sentence, two independent clauses — not joined by a conjunction such as “and,” “but,” “for,” “or,” or “nor” — are incorrectly written with no punctuation between them. Thus a run-on sentence might read: “I need to go to the store the baby needs some diapers.” Correctly, it might read: “I need to go to the store; the baby needs some diapers.” With a comma splice, two independent clauses have merely a comma between them, again without a conjunction — e.g.: “I need to go to the store, the baby needs some diapers.” The presence or absence of a comma — and therefore the distinction between a run-on sentence and a comma splice — isn’t usually noteworthy. So most writers class the two problems together as run-on sentences. For information about the Language-Change Index, click here. Next: The Distinction. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “As Coleridge once observed, ‘A close reasoner and a good writer in general may be known by his pertinent use of connectives.'” Simeon Potter, Modern Linguistics 161 (2d ed. 1967).
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