Up to this point, you have been working with various methods of combining sentences. Now we’re going to turn our attention to two different types of errors that can easily occur during the process of sentence combining.

The first is the problem of run-ons. If run-ons have always been a problem in your writing, now you have some good sentence-combining techniques to use in solving them. In later chapters, you’ll learn even more techniques.

What exactly is a run-on? It’s actually a very simple sentence structure error. A run-on is a series of two or more unconnected independent clauses. Here is an example:

The Daughters of St. Crispin was founded in 1869 in Lynn, Massachusetts it was the first national organization of trade union women.

Label the key structural components example so that you can clearly see the two clauses. Then write RO where one sentence “runs on” into the other.

When teachers see this kind of sentence in a student’s writing, they know that the student is attempting to combine clauses. They know it from the placement of the two clauses between one capital letter and period. But the two clauses are not combined or connected. Instead, they are running into one another.

How can you solve the run-on? A comma after the word Massachusetts cannot join the clauses. That “solution” would simply create another error—a comma splice. You can solve the run-on in a number of ways, using the techniques you’ve learned in this chapter. The following are four solutions. Notice that the solutions are compound, complex, and embedded sentences. In other words, the solutions are types of sentence combinations you have been studying in the preceding units. Here are the four possible solutions for the run-on:

(a) The Daughters of St. Crispin, which was the first national organization of trade union women, was rounded in 1869 in Lynn, Massachusetts.

(b) The Daughters of St. Crispin was rounded in 1869 in Lynn, Massachusetts, and it was the first national organization of trade union women.

(c) When the Daughters of St. Crispin was founded in 1869 in Lynn, Massachusetts, it was the first national organization of trade union women.

(d) Founded in 1869 in Lynn, Massachusetts, the Daughters of St. Crispin was the first national organization of trade union women.

As you can see; (a) is a fully embedded sentence, (b) is compound, (c) is complex, and (d) is a variation of an embedded and reduced sentence that was produced after juggling the parts of the sentence a bit. These are all good techniques for solving run-ons, and you’ll learn more strategies later.

Combining, not breaking up

Notice that we did not solve the run-on about the Daughters of St. Crispin by breaking apart the two clauses and making two separate sentences, each with its own capital letter and period. Breaking run-ons up into separate sentences is a good technique to use in the early grades, but for adult writers, it is usually inappropriate. You should be combining clauses, but you have to do it correctly. Use a period and a capital letter when your run-on or comma splice is long enough that it might be difficult for your reader to follow your writing, or when you want to write a short, perhaps choppy sentence for a strong, simple, or dramatic effect. But for most students, those two cases are the exception. In the great majority of cases, run-ons and comma splices should be corrected by combining clauses, not by separating them.