Chapter 23: Run-on sentences and comma splices.
* identify run-on sentences and comma splices;
* separate independent clauses with a period and, if necessary, a capital letter;
* join independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction;
* join independent clauses with a semicolon and, if desired, a conjunctive adverb; and
* join independent clauses with a subordinating conjunction.
In Chapter 22, we looked at sentences that were missing key ingredients, such as a subject, verb, or stand-alone idea. In the case of run-on sentences and comma splices, however, the ingredients are actually doubled (or even tripled). It's as if we had two juicy 10 oz. steaks and two baked potatoes and two servings of green peas all crowded onto a single plate. Or, to use another image, it's as if we have two trains, both traveling in the same direction. But there's a problem--the one behind gets too close and actually runs on into the caboose of the first one. Whether it's a bursting stomach or a derailed train, it's a problem. In terms of language, the problem looks like this:
One train stopped the other train kept going.
One train stopped is a complete sentence, and the other train kept going is another. When you read the two out loud, you will probably find that your voice drops after stopped as you recognize the completion of a thought, that is, the end of a sentence. On the other hand, you might have been confused and thought that the other train was part of the first sentence, as in One train stopped the other train. But that would leave the fragment kept going, which doesn't make sense.
This is an example of a run-on sentence: two independent clauses without an appropriate word or punctuation mark to either join or separate them. We're not thinking of a run-on here as having too many words, but rather as stringing together two or more independent clauses.
run-on sentence = independent clause + independent clause
This kind of run-on sentence can be confusing to readers and is also considered a very serious error by academic and business professionals. As you edit your work, you will want to fix any run-on sentences by assuring that they are correctly separated--
One train stopped. The other train kept going.
--or correctly joined--
One train stopped, and the other kept going.
Closely related to the run-on sentence is the comma splice, two independent clauses joined only by a comma.
comma splice = independent clause + comma + independent clause
In Standard American English, a comma is not the appropriate punctuation mark for this situation; the clauses should be separated by a period or joined by a semicolon. It's true that we occasionally see comma splices in published writing. Some writers join short, parallel clauses with a comma, such as the following: Commas are okay, semicolons are better. For most academic and professional audiences, however, you will best meet their expectations by following the rules for writing Standard American English.
Let's imagine the trains again. There between the two powerful trains stands Comma Man, (12) arms outstretched in a desperate attempt to prevent a collision. He is doomed to fail, however, because no matter how many times Comma Man works out at the gym, even if he were to take an illegal steroid cocktail, he will never be strong enough to separate these two trains. What about that plate with the two steaks? Suppose we were to separate the steaks with a few sprigs of parsley--could we serve the plate then? No. We need to get a second plate. There's simply too much food there.
IDENTIFYING RUN-ON SENTENCES AND COMMA SPLICES
When you edit your writing, read each "sentence" carefully from the capital letter to the period. A run-on or comma splice will have two independent clauses, two subject-verb pairs.
Joaquin grilled two steaks Dexter added a garnish of mushrooms.
In the first clause, the subject is Joaquin and the verb is grilled. In the second clause, the subject is Dexter and the verb is added. The presence of two subject-verb pairs within one "sentence" suggests a run-on or a comma splice. Be careful, however, not to confuse these independent pairs with compound subjects or verbs. All of the following are single, correct, independent sentences. The verbs are underlined; the subjects are in bold.
Joaquin grilled two steaks and added a garnish of mushrooms. [compound verb] Joaquin and Dexter grilled two steaks. [compound subject] Joaquin and Dexter grilled two steaks and added a garnish of mushrooms. [compound subject and compound verb]
Let's go back to the first example: Joaquin grilled two steaks Dexter added a garnish of mushrooms. After you locate two clauses or subject-verb pairs in a sentence, look for a subordinating conjunction (or "coat hanger") at the beginning of the sentence or between the two clauses. If one of the clauses is preceded by a subordinating conjunction such as although, because, after, or while, or by a relative pronoun such as who, which, or that, the sentence is correct:
After Joaquin grilled two steaks, Dexter added a garnish of mushrooms. [correct] Joaquin grilled two steaks before Dexter added a garnish of mushrooms. [correct]
However, if there are no coat hangers in the sentence, look for the place where the two clauses meet. Perhaps even draw a little box there. If there is nothing in the box--no word like and, no semicolon--you have a run-on sentence. If there is just a comma in the box, you have a comma splice (see Figure 23.1 and Recipe for Review).
Figure 23.1 Identifying Run-ons and Comma Splices If there is nothing in the box, you have a run-on sentence. Joaquin grilled two steaks Dexter added a garnish of mushrooms. If there is just a comma in the box, you have a comma splice. Joaquin grilled two steaks, Dexter added a garnish of mushrooms.
Let's analyze the following examples:
A. Jordan had an unusual job in which he killed and cleaned a ten-pound octopus each day for octopus soup.
Sentence A has two subject-verb pairs: Jordan had and he killed and cleaned. At the place where they meet, however, there is the relative pronoun which (the object of the preposition in). This sentence is therefore correct.
B. He picked it up by its large head then he dropped it into boiling water.
Sentence B also has two subject-verb pairs: he picked and he dropped. At the place where the two clauses meet, we have the word then, an adverb rather than a conjunction, and no mark of punctuation. This sentence, therefore, is a run-on.
C. The octopus would make a desperate attempt to escape, it would squirt Jordan with ink and grab the sides of the pot with its tentacles.
Sentence C has two subject-verb pairs: octopus would make and it would squirt and grab. This is a difficult but extremely common type of comma splice (or run-on) in which the subject of the second clause is a pronoun that refers to the subject of the first clause. At the point where the two independent clauses meet, there is a comma; therefore this sentence is a comma splice.
D. Finally, Jordan cut open the head and removed the ink bladder, the ink gave the octopus soup its rich black color.
Sentence D has two subject-verb pairs: Jordan cut and removed and ink gave. Don't be fooled by the compound verb--there are still two subject-verb pairs. At the point where the two independent clauses meet, there is only a comma; therefore this sentence is also a comma splice.
E. Jordan enjoyed his job, however he was very tired at the end of each day's wrestling match with an octopus.
Sentence E has two subject-verb pairs: Jordan enjoyed and he was. Where the two independent clauses meet, we find a comma and the word however. It's tempting to view the sentence as correct. We know the comma can't join the two clauses, but can however do it? The answer is no. In this sentence, however is used as a conjunctive adverb, rather than as a subordinating conjunction, and adverbs cannot connect two clauses. This sentence is a comma splice. You'll read more about conjunctive adverbs later in the chapter.
Exercise 23.1 | Identifying Run-ons and Comma Splices
Read each "sentence" carefully, and identify it as correct, run-on, or comma splice.
-- 1. While he was growing up, Dexter's favorite dish was peanut butter and jelly.
-- 2. He was a picky eater he liked only bland, simple food.
-- 3. His mother would use plain white sandwich bread, she bought creamy peanut butter and grape jelly.
-- 4. Dexter was a picky eater as a child, however he grew to like a variety of foods as an adult.
-- 5. Now one of his favorite foods is steamed clams he also likes clam cakes.
There is a certain simplicity about this chapter. We have two closely related errors, identified in almost exactly the same way, and--almost as simply--four ways to fix them.
1. One train stopped. The other kept going. [separated with period]
2. One train stopped, and the other kept going. [joined with comma and coordinating conjunction]
3. One train stopped; the other kept going. [joined with semicolon] One train stopped; however, the other kept going. [joined with semicolon; conjunctive adverb added]
4. One train stopped, while the other kept going. [joined with subordinating conjunction between clauses]
While one train stopped, the other kept going. [joined with subordinating conjunction at the beginning of the first clause]
FULL STOP: THE PERIOD
One way to fix run-ons and comma splices is to separate them with a period. The period indicates the end of a complete thought, the end of a complete sentence. Where the comma is like a waving hand drawing attention to a certain group of words, the period is like the vertical palm of the traffic cop saying "Stop!" It is like a knife slicing through a beef tenderloin.
The correction is made at the same point where we looked for the error, the point where the two sentences meet. If there is nothing there, nothing in that box, then we add a period. If there is a comma at that point, we change it to a period. In both cases, we must then look at the first letter of the next sentence and capitalize it, if necessary. Note that in the second example, Dexter is already capitalized because it is a proper noun.
One train stopped. The other train kept going. Joaquin grilled two steaks. Dexter added a garnish of mushrooms.
With a period, the hand is no longer waving but firmly signaling a full stop.
Exercise 23.2 | Full Stop
Read each "sentence" carefully, and identify it as correct, run-on, or comma splice. Then fix any errors using a period and, if needed, a capital letter.
-- 1. Joaquin had worked at the restaurant every Friday night for two years he enjoyed the pressure of the line.
-- 2. At the restaurant Joaquin especially liked the grill the heat and the danger were exciting to him.
-- 3. Unlike his friend Dexter, Joaquin had never been a picky eater, his parents encouraged him to try new foods.
-- 4. Joaquin had always enjoyed steamed clams and calamari, he liked garlic and chili peppers.
-- 5. Although he enjoyed almost all foods, Joaquin disliked lima beans.
Run-on sentences and comma splices often occur in our writing because there is some relationship between the two ideas they express. Thus, it is often a good idea to keep the sentences connected. One way to do so is to put a comma and one of the coordinating conjunctions at the point where the two sentences meet, as in the following examples:
One train stopped, but the other train kept going. Joaquin grilled two steaks, and Dexter added a garnish of mushrooms.
There are seven coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. Each one has a somewhat different meaning, and we'll want to use the one that best expresses the relationship between the ideas in the two sentences. But and yet suggest a contrast or contradiction between the two ideas, as in the first example above. For and so suggest a cause-and-effect relationship: The steaks weren't done, so Joaquin left them on the grill.
These seven coordinating conjunctions, the FANBOYS, are words whose job it is to join two (or more) other words, phrases, or clauses. The FANBOYS themselves are the glue that holds the clauses together. Commas are also involved, however. We place a comma before (not after!) the coordinating conjunction when joining two independent clauses. The comma signals the end of one group of words and the beginning of another.
Remember Comma Man? He was too weak to prevent the train wreck by himself. However, when he joins up with one of the FANBOYS, they're strong enough to stop the trains and save the day.
compound sentence = independent clause + comma + coordinating conjunction + independent clause
Exercise 23.3 | The FANBOYS
Read each "sentence" carefully, and identify it as correct, run-on, or comma splice. Then fix any errors using an appropriate coordinating conjunction and, if needed, a comma.
-- 1. The air around me was crisp with a slight chill sweet and earthy smells came from the shrubs and flowers.
-- 2. The cafe was warm and cozy there were many baked goods on display.
-- 3. I could hear the bubbling of the espresso machines as they roared and steamed like the trains passing through the valley.
-- 4. I had a good morning, I'll go with the double espresso and a flaky, buttery croissant.
-- 5. The iced coffee looked clear, dark, and delicious, it tasted flat and stale.
Another way to join two sentences or independent clauses correctly is with a semicolon. The semicolon is like an equal sign; it tells the reader that on each side is an independent sentence. Yet it also suggests a relationship between the two. English teachers love it when students use the semicolon correctly. However, if they use it incorrectly, their teachers are correspondingly disappointed. By all means, deploy the semicolon appropriately. You could, though, go through your entire life without ever using one.
To join two sentences with a semicolon, insert it at the place where the two clauses meet, just as you would a period. However, note that the first word after the semicolon is not capitalized unless it is a proper noun.
One train stopped; the other train kept going. [the is not capitalized] Joaquin grilled two steaks; Dexter added a garnish of mushrooms. [Dexter is always capitalized because it is a proper noun]
If you'd like to continue the train analogy, consider this: We know Comma Man isn't strong enough by himself to separate the two trains, but what would happen if he got into the cab of a semi? See the illustration on p. 532.
Exercise 23.4 | Using a Semicolon
Read each item carefully, and identify it as correct, run-on, or comma splice. Then fix any errors using a semicolon.
-- 1. Ryan Gosling is an actor who has played a variety of characters from a cold-blooded killer to a devoted lover to a man obsessed with a life-size doll.
-- 2. Like Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera, Gosling sang and danced on the Mickey Mouse Club he also appeared in a number of television shows.
-- 3. In Remember the Titans he played a country music fan his roommate taught him to love Motown as well.
-- 4. His portrayal of the faithful Noah in The Notebook made him a star three years later his roles in Half Nelson and Lars and the Real Girl won him critical acclaim.
-- 5. I n 2011 Gosling wowed audiences with his mysterious yet somehow heroic "driver" on a lighter note he taught comedian Steve Carell how to be a "player" in Crazy, Stupid, Love.
THE SEMICOLON PLUS CONJUNCTIVE ADVERB
When we use the semicolon to join two independent clauses, we are suggesting that the ideas are somehow related. We often choose to specify the nature of this relationship by adding an appropriate conjunctive adverb, such as consequently, also, besides, moreover, or nevertheless. As with the coordinating conjunctions, we want to choose an adverb that explains the connection between the two ideas (see Figure 23.2).
Look at the following examples:
One train stopped; however, the other train kept going. Joaquin grilled two steaks; next, Dexter added a garnish of mushrooms.
The two clauses are actually joined by the semicolon. The adverbs describe the relationship between the clauses, but do not connect them. Therefore it is especially important to use the correct punctuation.
In general, when a conjunctive adverb is used, it follows the semicolon and is in turn followed by a comma.
Alicia studied diligently throughout the semester; consequently, she received high marks for the course.
However, the conjunctive adverb can be placed in either clause, depending on what it modifies. In fact, it can even be placed in the middle of a clause, as in this example:
One of the students in the class, however, did not make time to study; she had been focusing on the softball team.
Wherever the conjunctive adverb is placed, it is set off from the rest of the sentence by punctuation on either side.
Exercise 23.5 | Punctuating Sentences with Conjunctive Adverbs
Place a semicolon between the two independent clauses in each of the following sentences. Add commas as needed.
1. Everyone knows that the octopus has eight arms however some people might be surprised to learn of its intelligence.
2. The octopus exhibits several key traits of very smart animals, for example it solves problems.
3. Like dogs, chimpanzees, and humans, the octopus likes to play furthermore it has personality.
4. Scientists can measure whether an individual octopus is passive or shy they can even tell if it's a particularly emotional octopus.
5. An octopus has the ability to change the color and texture of its skin in response to its environment, in addition scientists believe these changes can also be triggered by its emotions. the subordinating conjunction
THE SUBORDINATING CONJUNCTION
The final way we might choose to connect two related sentences is by using an appropriate subordinating conjunction or "coat hanger," such as because, after, although, since, when, and while. These conjunctions may be placed either between the two independent clauses, that is, the same place we've put the other corrections, or at the beginning of the first clause. Study the following examples:
One train stopped, while the other kept going. After Joaquin grilled two steaks, Dexter added a garnish of mushrooms.
If the subordinating conjunction is placed between the two clauses, a comma is used only when the second clause is a contrast to the first, for example, if it's introduced with while or although. In general, however, no comma is required after the main clause:
We ordered a large appetizer because we were very hungry. We ordered a large appetizer, although we weren't very hungry.
However, when the subordinating conjunction is placed at the beginning of the first clause (as in After Joaquin grilled the steaks, Dexter added a garnish of mushrooms), a comma should always be placed at the end. The waving hand signals the reader, "Look, here's the beginning of the main clause."
In choosing which subordinating conjunction to use, keep in mind both the word and its placement in the sentence in order to best explain to the reader the relationship between the two clauses. (See the list of subordinating conjunctions in Figure 22.1.) Note that the word however can occasionally be used as a subordinating conjunction rather than as a conjunctive adverb, as in the following sentence: However you look at it, English is a difficult language.
Exercise 23.6 | Using the Subordinating Conjunction
Read each sentence carefully, and identify it as correct, run-on, or comma splice. Then correct any errors using an appropriate subordinating conjunction and, if needed, additional punctuation.
-- 1. The storeroom is an important place for students to visit it contains much of the information that they need to judge the quality of fresh ingredients.
-- 2. Students study pictures of fruits and vegetables in books they can touch and smell the produce in the storeroom.
-- 3. Sometimes students are surprised by the many unfamiliar kinds of mushrooms, peppers, and salad greens that are available.
-- 4. Students learn about such varieties as Thai bird chilis and enoki mushrooms, they explore the treasures of the storeroom.
-- 5. Students take tests that require them to identify specific varieties, they should study in the storeroom.
We've practiced several different ways of joining independent clauses correctly. In your own work, of course, you will choose whatever methods fit your purpose and style. For example, shorter sentences might be connected with a coordinating or subordinating conjunction to create a more fluid and interesting rhythm. Longer sentences, on the other hand, might be more clearly separated with a period. Semicolons give yet a different feel to the sentence, more formal and deliberate. If the relationship between two clauses is unclear or if it needs to be emphasized, use a specific conjunctive adverb.
RECIPE FOR REVIEW
IDENTIFYING RUN-ON SENTENCES AND COMMA SPLICES
To check whether a sentence is a run-on or a comma splice, read from the capital letter at the beginning to the period at the end. Find the subject and verb. Follow these steps:
1. Are there two separate subject-verb pairs in the sentence?
If NO, go on to the next sentence.
If YES, go to step 2.
2. Is there a subordinating conjunction (coat hanger) at the beginning of the sentence or between the clauses?
If YES, this sentence is correct (but check that there's a comma preceding the coordinating conjunction). Go on to the next sentence.
If NO, go to step 3.
3. Look at the place where the two clauses meet. Is there a comma plus a FANBOY or a semicolon at that point?
If YES, the sentence is correct. Go on to the next sentence.
If NO, go on to step 4.
4. Look again at the place where the two sentences meet. Draw a small box there.
If there is nothing in that box, the sentence is a run-on.
If there is a comma in that box, the sentence is a comma splice.
FIXING RUN-ON SENTENCES AND COMMA SPLICES
Run-on sentences and comma splices can be fixed in one of these four ways:
1. Put a period at the place where the two independent clauses meet, and capitalize the first letter of the next word.
2. Add a comma and a FANBOY at the place where the two clauses meet.
3. Put a semicolon at the place where the two independent clauses meet, or use a semicolon, a conjunctive adverb, and a comma.
4. Put a subordinating conjunction or coat hanger at the place where the two independent clauses meet, or put the coat hanger at the beginning of the sentence and add a comma at the end of the first clause.
DIRECTIONS: PART I. Read each item (a) carefully, and identify it as correct, run-on, or comma splice. Then correct the errors in any way you choose.
-- 1. An important class for culinary students is Food Safety, it offers knowledge that will keep future customers safe.
-- 2. Much of the information is common sense, especially for those with experience in the industry, some of the details concerning foodborne pathogens require careful study.
-- 3. Food Safety keeps the customers safe Mathematics keeps the proprietors in business.
-- 4. Introduction to Gastronomy offers an historical perspective on the industry it features lively discussion of current issues such as organic food, fast food, and slow food.
-- 5. The composition courses develop students' ability to express themselves in writing, students may use these skills for business proposals, restaurant reviews, and cookbooks.
-- 6. In one of the restaurant classes, students sit in blue bamboo chairs, the silverware is properly set on each table.
-- 7. They are told to hold their noses as they taste the mystery food, it has a light, smoky sweet taste.
-- 8. The brown rice syrup has many different flavors it tastes like earth and like butterscotch.
-- 9. When students tour the kitchen, they see many familiar items, such as mixers, boilers, "salamanders," and other restaurant equipment.
-- 10. In the background they can hear pots and pans lightly striking each other they can taste the flavors of sauteed onions and garlic on the roofs of their mouths.
DIRECTIONS: PART II. Correct the five sentence errors--a mix of run-ons and comma splices--in the following passage. (b)
Basil and rosemary are aromatic herbs with different scents, flavors, and textures they can be prepared and used in different ways.
Basil is an herb that is predominately used in Italian cuisine. The sweet flavor of the basil and the acidic tomato marry well together. When basil is added to a hot pot of tomato sauce, the aroma intensifies the mixture of sweet and savory is an amazing flavor combination. Basil is a hearty plant with delicate green leaves and white flowers. The leaves are the only thing on the plant that is edible. The best way to prepare the leaves is to tear them right before adding them to a dish, the tearing helps to prevent bruising to the leaf. Another good way to cut basil is to stack several leaves on top of each other, roll them up, and run the knife through. This process is called a chiffonade, which means thin strips of ribbon.
Rosemary is more of a hearty herb it resembles a pine tree but in a smaller version. Unlike that of basil, the taste of rosemary is pungent. It has more of an earthy flavor as opposed to sweet. Potatoes and poultry work well with rosemary because of their bland taste. The rosemary adds a strong boost of flavor to anything bland. The needles are the only edible portion of rosemary, they can be removed from the stem by pulling them down. Once they are removed, I would recommend finely chopping them due to the coarse texture of the leaves. Rosemary is often added to recipes in a sachet and then removed in order to get the flavor of the herb and not the texture. Another way to use rosemary would be to make a bouquet garni, which is a bundle of herbs tied together. This is used when the flavor of the herbs is infused in stocks and sauces.
Both rosemary and basil are easy to work with. The easy tips of preparation help in keeping the herbs fresh and flavorful. Although the two are different, they're both delicious and will enhance any dish over salt any day.
(a) Sentences 6-10 have been adapted from various student essays.
(b) Material was adapted from essay by student writer Amber Ziembiec. The errors were added in order to create this quiz.
Figure 23.2 Selected Conjunctive Adverbs Conjunctive Adverbs ... and their meanings also, besides, furthermore, "and" moreover however, nevertheless, still "but" or "yet" accordingly, consequently, "because" therefore, thus also, likewise, similarly "too" otherwise "or else" finally, meanwhile, related to time still, then
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|Title Annotation:||UNIT 3: PRESENTATION|
|Author:||Cadbury, Vivian C.|
|Publication:||A Taste for Writing, Composition for Culinarians|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2015|
|Previous Article:||Chapter 22: Fixing sentence fragments.|
|Next Article:||Chapter 24: Subject-verb agreement.|