A few years ago, when I was work­ing as a writer for a pri­vate com­pa­ny, a cowork­er accused me of writ­ing run-on sen­tences for YouTube video descrip­tions. When I reviewed the descrip­tions, I saw no run-on sen­tences at all. It turns out, he was refer­ring to sen­tences he con­sid­ered too long; they weren’t actu­al­ly run-on sen­tences.

So what exact­ly is a run-on sen­tence?

A run-on sen­tence is a sen­tence that con­tains two or more inde­pen­dent claus­es joined with­out appro­pri­ate punc­tu­a­tion or con­junc­tion.

Here’s one exam­ple:

  • The pep­per is hot, we shouldn’t eat it.

Both claus­es on either side of the com­ma are inde­pen­dent, and a com­ma is just too weak to sep­a­rate them. Note that the exam­ple sen­tence isn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly long; a run-on sen­tence has noth­ing to do with its length.

To fix a run-on sen­tence, we need to use stronger punc­tu­a­tion or a con­junc­tion or make one of the claus­es depen­dent, like these exam­ples:

  • The pep­per is hot; we shouldn’t eat it. (semi­colon)
  • The pep­per is hot — we shouldn’t eat it. (em dash)
  • The pep­per is hot. We shouldn’t eat it. (peri­od)
  • The pep­per is hot, so we shouldn’t eat it. (con­junc­tion)
  • The pep­per is hot, and we shouldn’t eat it. (con­junc­tion)
  • Because the pep­per is hot, we shouldn’t eat it. (make one depen­dent)
  • The pep­per is hot, which means we shouldn’t eat it. (make one depen­dent)

Oh, and just to be clear, you can have a very long run-on sen­tence. :)

There you have it. Hope­ful­ly, you found this use­ful.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness. Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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