Comma splices and run on sentences

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The longing of Croats for commas, and the conflict they present with English grammar – The secret love affair revealed!

In English, it is best to speak short and sweet. We should always speak with clarity and conciseness. Continuing a sentence can lead to confusion and grammatical error. In Croatian, it is common practice for sentences to continue as long as we can hold our breath. Writers like Miroslav Krleža are notorious for this. For example, in the following two sentences:

Naše srce, kada je već o srcu riječ, nije vodovodna
cijev ni rezervoar, dok gospoda ordinarijusi i
primarijusi, pušeći cigarete i pijući konjak, to
ne razumiju, jer ta gospoda učenjaci u životu
nisu pročitala ni jednog jedinog feljtona, ni stiha,
ti mudraci pojma uopće nemaju da je poezija
nerazmjerno važnija od njihove arteriosklerozne
hidrauličke mudrosti, oni puše i piju, a nama
brane cigarete i alkohol, dakako napajajući
nas mlijekom od tuberkuloznih krava da bi nas,
s jedne strane imunizirali, a s druge, zarazili
tuberkulozom.

Gospoda pojma nemaju da je ljudsko srce
svileni barjak, i da ono osjeća svaki najneviniji
dašak zefira, pa i telefonske žice pjevaju na
vjetru kao harfe, a ljudsko srce nije samo
telefonska žica, ono je čitav orkestar
od harfa i cimbala, od violina i truba,
naše srce pjeva trijumfalno i raste ritmom
simfonične poeme, a nije hidrant, kao što misle
ovi vodovodni majstori, nego – suluda oluja od
tisuća i tisuća instrumenata, a za ustalasalo
more ovog našeg suludog koncerta
uho mnogopoštovane gospode medicine je gluho.

Unfortunately for Croats, this is not possible in English. The comma, which we will discuss a little more about, is not the part that is freely used in continuing sentences. The paragraph above is an example of what we call run-on sentences. In this blog, we will look at run on sentences, including the ‘comma-splice’, and resolve them with the right alternatives.

Run-on sentences in English are grammatically incorrect; they sound really bad and should not be used. Unfortunately, computer grammar checkers are not good at identifying such strings. They will recognize the comma division (two independent sentences separated by a comma), but are satisfied if there is no punctuation between sentences.)

A sentence sequence (sometimes called a “joined sentence”) has at least two parts, both of which can stand alone (in other words, two independent sentences), but these two parts are ‘glued’ instead of properly connected. See also the section that describes what can happen between two independent sentences.

Sentence length has nothing to do with whether a sentence is a sentence sequence or not; to be a ‘run-on sentence’ means to have a structural flaw that can hit even very short sentences.

The sun is high, put on some sunblock.

An extremely long sentence can be difficult to pronounce, but it can be structurally correct. Click here to see a sentence with 239 words that is perfectly correct (structurally).

When two independent sentences are connected by a comma only, they form a sentence sequence called a ‘comma division’. The above example (about sunscreen) is the comma division. When we use a comma to connect two independent sentences, it must be accompanied by a conjunction

Sentence strings occur in the following circumstances:

  1. When the second independent sentence gives an order or directive based on what is said in the first sentence.

This next chapter has a lot of difficult information in it, you should start studying right away.

We can put a semicolon and start a new sentence.

A semicolon would also be a good option.

This next chapter has a lot of difficult information in it. You should start studying right away.  

This next chapter has a lot of difficult information in it; you should start studying right away.

 

When two independent sentences are connected by a transitional expression (conjunction) as however, on top of that, what

Mr. Nguyen has sent his four children to ivy-league colleges, however, he has sacrificed his health working day and night in that dusty bakery. Gospodin

Again, where that first comma stands, we could use a period and start a new sentence or use a semicolon.

Mr. Nguyen has sent his four children to ivy-league colleges. However, he has sacrificed his health working day and night in that dusty bakery.

Mr. Nguyen has sent his four children to ivy-league colleges; however, he has sacrificed his health working day and night in that dusty bakery.

When the second independent sentence has a pronoun that connects it to the first independent sentence.

This computer doesn’t make sense to me, it came without a manual.

This computer doesn’t make sense to me; it came without a manual.

Most of those computers in the Learning Assistance Center are broken already, this proves my point about American computer manufacturers.

Most of those computers in the Learning Assistance Center are broken already.  This proves my point about American computer manufacturers.

Comma splice practice (run on sentences)

 

More comma practice (general comma rules)