Tag Archives: commas

One more thing about commas…

They aren’t periods.

"Run-on sentences? Game over!"

“Run-on sentences? Game over!”

When a writer uses a comma where a period belongs, he creates a run-on sentence. We all know this. We all know what a run-on sentence looks like. Yet, I see this error quite often, even from experienced writers.*

In terms of language mechanics, if a writer makes two full statements in one sentence but doesn’t have an and, but, so, which, or some other conjunction after the comma (or at the very beginning), he needs a period instead. Consider the following hypothetical recap of the latest Game of Thrones episode.

“The shows featured lots of gratuitous nudity, there was oodles of killing too.”

This is a run-on sentence. It’s pretty obvious when we read it but not always when we write one like it ourselves. After my comma-themed post the other day, a few commenters mentioned that their primary-school teachers had advised them years ago to put a comma wherever they felt they would pause if speaking the sentence aloud. I have no background as an educator of children, so perhaps those teachers understood something I don’t about child development. Still, that seems like terrible advice. People pause between sentences, don’t they?

Here are more examples:

“My trip to Tokyo was a disaster, Godzilla showed up and smashed the department store.”

“Life was miserable for Jan Brady growing up, her sisters got all the attention.”

Godzilla! Godzilla! Godzilla!

Godzilla! Godzilla! Godzilla!

When you revise your latest writing project, be it a novel, blog post, essay, short story, memoir, manifesto, confession, or ransom note, read it aloud. If something sounds choppy, check to see if you didn’t accidently let a run-on sentence slip in there. It might have felt like a proper sentence when you wrote it because of how you mentally phrased it, but if there’s no conjunction after the comma, and the second clause sounds like a complete sentence with a subject, you have a run-on. Let’s revisit one of the examples.

“My trip to Tokyo was a disaster, Godzilla showed up and smashed the department store.”

This sentence has two subjects: your trip to Tokyo and Godzilla. These are excellent subjects but maybe not when crammed together like that. We could turn it into two sentences, as in, “My Trip to Tokyo was a disaster. Godzilla showed up and smashed the department store.”

Another option is to employ a conjunction. “My trip to Tokyo was a disaster, because Godzilla showed up and smashed the department store.”

You can also stick a conjunction at the beginning. “Since her sisters got all the attention, Jan Brady was miserable growing up.”

Or, as I prefer, “My trip to Tokyo was awesome! Jan Brady was miserable because Godzilla smashed the department store, so she allowed the festering rage within to take control, which manifested itself in the form of an instant growth spurt that turned her into a 400-foot-tall, lighting-spitting middle sister. I watched in stunned silence as the titans engaged in a death battle and laid waste to a once-gleaming metropolis.”

See. I told you I am a writer. You think a goon like Hemingway could have conceived that?

***

*When I do one of these punctuation or grammar posts, I may imply the error I’m discussing is encountered with alarming frequency. Let’s just say, instead, that the error under discussion happens often enough that I wrote a post about it.

To help confuse you, I created this meaningless chart. It’s pure nonsense, but I advise you to keep your errors in the blue area anyway. Let those green and maroon bastards take all the heat.

We apologize. Rabid weasels hacked into our servers and inserted offensive content into this chart. Rest assured that category 4 does not in any way represent your face or suggest that your face has errors.

We apologize. Rabid weasels hacked into our servers and inserted offensive content into this chart. Rest assured that category 4 does not in any way represent your face, your loved one’s faces, or the faces of anyone living or dead. We also regret that a chart about errors has an error. 

Advertisements