Run-on Sentences

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Do you strive to be a good writer? Do you have trouble recognizing  a correct sentence? Are you guilty of writing run-on sentences? Here are some ways to solve this problem.

One of the most common mistakes beginning writers make is to use run-on sentences. When two complete thoughts are stuck together as one sentence, quite often it is a run-on sentence, and is grammatically incorrect. For a copy editor, a piece of writing that is full of run-on sentences can be a nightmare to work through.

Very often, the two parts of the run-on sentence are related, most likely talking about the same idea. The red and green highlighting shows the two sentences that have been put together to make one run-on (incorrect) sentence.

(Run-on) My house is at the end of the block no other houses are beyond mine.

The simplest way to correct this would be to make two sentences.

My house is at the end of the block. No other houses are beyond mine.

*****

(Run-on) She was only fourteen years old no wonder she was vulnerable.

She was only fourteen years old. No wonder she was vulnerable.

*****

(Run-on) I shopped in the rain today I got drenched.

I shopped in the rain today. I got drenched.

Here are other options:

1. I shopped in the rain today, and got drenched.

2. I shopped in the rain today; I got drenched.

3. I shopped in the rain today; therefore, I got drenched.

4. Because I shopped in the rain today, I got drenched.

*****

Since you have so many options, please use one of them instead of jamming two complete thoughts into one sentence without the proper conjunctions or punctuation. The simplest way to fix a run-on sentence is with a period and capital letter, but as you can see, there are other alternatives. Leaving it as a run-on sentence is not one of them.

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Find and Replace

When I have a long piece of work to edit, enhance, and rewrite, it helps to use the technology available to me. My tech savvy is only moderate, but I’ve learned to make good use of some of the functions available to me.

One of my favourite tools in Word is Find and Replace.

Suppose I am reading over a section of my writing and I’ve just realized that my Constable Andersen mentioned near the end of the book is spelled “sen” and elsewhere in the manuscript I’m sure I had it spelled Anderson with the “son” ending. Now I’m wondering how many more times I’ve spelled it Anderson, and where in my manuscript might those instances be?

Luckily, using Word, I don’t have to read the whole ms to look for “Anderson.” That’s what Find and Replace is for.

I go to the beginning of my ms and click on the Home tab. On the far right, I see a tiny set of binoculars with the word “Find” beside it. I click on “Find” and in the navigation window that drops down, I can type in the word I’m looking for.

I type in “Anderson,” the word with the wrong spelling (for the purposes of my novel). Word will automatically take me to each case of “Anderson” when I click the up or down arrow. At each stop, I have the option of going into the text to change the spelling to “Andersen.”

If I had a change to make that involved more than just a few words, I could use the Replace option to do the work for me. Depending on which version of Word you have, you can either click on Replace (under the binoculars on the right), or, in older versions, click on the Replace tab in the window that opened when you first clicked “Find.”

It’s a fast and easy way to be sure to find all instances of some mistake you may have made.

Watch out for a funny thing that can happen when you are using Replace.

Let’s say you were changing one of your characters from a girl to a boy. Every time you have referred to the girl you’ve said “her.” Now that you are using a boy, you want those words to say “his,” not “her.”

But beware. Find will show you all cases of “her,” even if it is only a part of a longer word. If you changed all cases of “her” to “his,” you might end up with a new spelling nightmare with “mother” changed to “mothis” and “there” changed to “thise.” As I’ve discovered, there are many words with the letters “her” in them.

Definitely use Find, but use Replace more carefully.

Rewriting. What to do and when to stop.

I love rewriting better than writing the first draft of my novels.

  • First I’m much more relaxed because I know the hard work of getting the storyline on “paper” is done.
  • As I rewrite I find mistakes and have a feeling of satisfaction when I fix them.
  • I find little treasures like a paragraph that I can rewrite using dialogue rather than boring narrative, and I’m pleased with myself for figuring that out.
  • I can’t believe I fell for the use of other words as dialogue tags instead of “said” and “asked” and I fix those, reaffirming that I can make the dialogue do the job of expressing the emotion rather than relying on the dialogue tag to provide it. Fancy words like “inquired” and “replied” just slow down the action. “Said” and “asked” are more like punctuation—necessary, but meant to be glossed over. This is also the place where I look for “ing” words and get rid of them if possible. (For example: “I’ll be right there,” she said, putting down the phone.) If she was putting down the phone when she was speaking into it, I wonder if the other party even heard her.
  • I look for repeated words and try to avoid using the same words or expressions in one paragraph. Repetition becomes obvious immediately when reading your work out loud.
  • Speaking of repetition, character names are often overused, especially in dialogue. Have you ever noticed that when you’re talking to someone, you rarely speak their name? The other person knows you’re talking to them and you and that person both know his or her name. Why would you keep on saying it? So for natural conversation, use the other person’s name sparingly. I often have to take out names in dialogue, and in narrative sections I replace them when possible with he or she.
  • In dialogue, the sentences should be fairly short. I need to check for long sentences that give a lot of information. People just don’t talk that way. Often they use only one or two words or phrases. Besides, short, snappy dialogue heightens the tension and that is what every author is striving for.
  • In the rewrite, I can also add little tidbits of description of people or places, but I try to be careful to do it in small doses. Long descriptions have a huge “yawn” factor.
  • When someone speaks, they may have some physical or emotional reaction that should be added, usually before the quotation. This is a good time to add that information.
  • As I reread my first draft, it’s important that I remember which point of view I’m in. I’ve made some awful POV mistakes that my critiquing buddy or I have found. For example, if I’m telling the scene in Andrea’s POV, I can’t write a thought that is happening in Jim’s head. Andrea has no way of knowing what he is thinking. I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to fix POV problems before publication and save myself some embarrassment.
  • Now that I’ve mentioned my critiquing buddy, I have to say that my writing efforts are made so much easier because of her. I try to do the same for her and it makes us a great team. If you don’t have a writing buddy to exchange files with and help each other out, it’s very much worth your while to try to find someone who is willing to work with you. I find my buddy’s help invaluable! Oops! She’ll say not to use exclamation marks unless it’s for a one- or two-word expression, but in this case, I do want to stress that her help is invaluable!

 Most authors are perfectionists and they tend to rewrite over and over. I’ve heard it said that an author can tell that they’re finished rewriting when they end up with what they originally wrote in the first rewrite. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but sometimes you wonder ….