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We all want our writing to contain well formed sentences that are free of mistakes; however, even experienced writers make mistakes from time to time. One common mistake that writers make is known as a run-on sentence.

A run-on sentence consists of two independent clauses connected incorrectly. The most common run-on sentence occurs when two independent clauses are joined by only a comma. When this happens, the run-on sentence is referred to as a comma splice. Another common error is to join two independant clauses with no punctuation and without a conjunction.

The following sentences are examples of run-on sentences.

  1. ) We live in a rapidly changing world, it requires us to keep up with new advances in technology. [run-on, comma splice]

  2. ) Jane studies English every day, therefore she is improving her skills. [run-on, comma splice with a conjunctive adverb]

  3. )I have many friends some of them live far away. [run-on, no punctuation or conjunction]

To correct the errors in the sentences above requires the proper use of conjunctions and punctuation. To avoid run-on sentences, it is important to remember that two independent clauses CANNOT be joined using only a comma.

To correct sentence number 1, change the comma to a semicolon, or replace it with the relative pronoun which.

We live in a rapidly changing world; it requires us to keep up with new advances in technology.


We live in a rapidly changing world, which requires us to keep up with new advances in technology.

Sentence number 2 contains the conjunctive adverb therefore, which is often mistaken for a conjunction. To correct sentence number 2, change the comma to a semicolon, and then add a comma after the conjunctive adverb.

Jane studies English every day; therefore, she is improving her skills.

Sentence number 3 has no punctuation or conjunction. To correct this type of run-on sentence, you must first find the subjects and verbs; then decide where the sentence can be separated. The subject-verb combination of the first independent clause is I (subject) have (verb). The second subject-verb combination is some of them (subject), live (verb). Now that we know where the subject-verb combinations are, we can add a coordinating conjunction with a comma, and create a compound sentence.

I have many friends, but some of them live far away.

Read the sentences below. Are they complete sentences, or are they run-on sentences? On a separate sheet of paper, write each sentence; then, next to each sentence write S if the sentence is complete, or R if it is a run-on sentence. Click the sentence to see the correct answer.

  1. First he spoke quietly, then he started to yell.

  2. I got a typing speed of 40, which is good for a beginner.

  3. When I saw him, I laughed till I cried.

  4. The path is stony, it hurts my feet.

  5. One man went to work, the other went to school.

  6. Exploring all the rooms, we walked slowly through the old mansion.

  7. While attending the University of Tennessee, I was an exchange student at Manchester University.

  8. Just start running, see how fast you can go.