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  • Paul Nicholsen

Avoiding Run-on Sentences

The SAT loves testing students on whether they can find and correct run-on sentences it is a very common test question.


Do you see anything wrong with that sentence?


It's factually true: The SAT will devote a good chunk of its questions to this topic. But grammatically, it's a run-on sentence.


What's a run-on sentence?


What a good question! You're so wise.


A run-on sentence is two complete sentences that have been incorrectly mushed together as one. If you look at our example above, I could split it into two sentences without making any changes:


1) The SAT loves testing students on whether they can find and correct run-on sentences

2) it is a very common test question.


Either of those sentences could stand by itself just fine. They each have a subject and a verb ("The SAT loves", "it is").


We have three ways to correct this problem, and they're all fairly straight-forward once you are used to them:


Split it into two sentences.

The SAT loves testing students on whether they can find and correct run-on sentences. It is a very common test question.


Use a semi-colon

The SAT loves testing students on whether they can find and correct run-on sentences; it is a very common test question.


Use a comma and a FANBOYS* conjunction

The SAT loves testing students on whether they can find and correct run-on sentences, and it is a very common test question.


The nice thing about these three different solutions is that they're ALL correct: none of them is better than the others. Since it's a multiple-choice test, you just have to look for the answer choice that uses one of them (and there will always only be one!)


Try some examples.


1. Rhonda's dog was bitten by a radioactive spider now it shoots webs from its tail.

A. NO CHANGE

B. spider, now

C. spider. Now

D. spider and now


2. Mikela had always dreamed of being an international circus performer, but her combined fears of clowns and elephants limited her.

A. NO CHANGE

B. performer; but

C. performer but

D. performer but,


3. They say that eating an apple a day keeps the doctor away I want to know how to keep away my sister.

A. NO CHANGE

B. away; I want

C. away but I want

D. away, I want


4. The wild-haired scientist, obsessed in his quest to create a renewable energy source fueled by pineapples, had forgotten to eat his after-dinner ice cream, which now lay melting under the hot laboratory lights.

A. NO CHANGE

B. pineapples, and, had

C. pineapples, and had

D. pineapples; had


5. When I was younger I thought that chocolate milk came from brown cows now I know it comes from brown goats.

A. NO CHANGE

B. cows; but now

C. cows but now

D. cows, but now


Answers

1. C - just split it into two complete sentences.

2. A - this is correct as it is! There is a complete sentence on either side of the comma-conjunction.

3. B - a semi-colon works here. Remember, there are other acceptable ways to fix any of these, but none of the other answer choices are among them.

4. A - this one is tricky. The SAT will often give a really long sentence and make you think it's a run-on, but this is fine as it is. If we would split it, we would break up the main subject and verb.

5. D - comma goes with the conjunction.


As always, drop a question if you have one!


* For And Nor But Or Yet So

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