Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Grammar Girl: Run-on Sentences


Here is an excerpt taken from The Exclamation Point! by Wolf Larsen (a 70,000 word run-on sentence):

…the drums crashed and echoed through the concrete and glass valleys of Manhattan – drums crashing down buildings and splintering highways into crying asphalt – the drums hurtling trucks and cars to the neon heavens, the drums eating the oceans and splashing the mountains into falling ash and debris clouding over the planet, while the lonely piano drifted gloomily through the night and the bass birthed rhythm crying softly through the centuries while the human race colored the music with a labyrinth of passions, and the saxophone kept birthing the words and the bass formed them into phrases and the piano keys splintered the phrases into running words and no one was quite sure.. and no one was quite sure.. and piano keys kept creating words that ran around and around the urban maze piano keys that crashed and fornicated and birthed pregnant sentences that grew into centuries and the trumpet laughed and laughed until he went blind with the music, and the music became a neurotic orchestra that cried and shouted and pleaded with furious history that drifted and crashed and screamed with vengeance while the trumpet played and soared with the saxophone and no one was quite sure.. and no one was quite sure. . . and with the onslaught of the thrashing drums empires fell down and crashed into ruins while the saxophone sang their eulogy and mankind became one with the orchestra and fell and rose with the tormented violins and the french horn sounded an ominous note and the people looked around unsure. . . no one was quite sure. . . and everyone ran ahead hurriedly to their deaths with the violins who screeched disturbance. . . screeched disturbance. . . and the saxophone played irresistible death and the trumpet leered and the saxophone ran away the sax ran all over the painting attacking color with music, and the drums thundered WA!R WA!R and the drums thundered WA!R WA!R and everyone was so happy and everyone was so happy. . . and the saxophone spoke and birthed God and creation and the angels who came running out of that sax and the drums crashed the big bang smashing into planets and birthing clouds and sun and atmosphere, while the drums rained down on the human race which was born by the copulation of the tenor sax and the trumpet frolicking through the heavens and seducing all the angels, and the trumpet laughed again and seduced the piano who played softly oh so softly while the saxophone screeched and howled and birthed WARS and genocide and the people weren’t quite sure. . . they just weren’t quite sure. .

Are you feeling breathless? Well, imagine what your readers feel like when you, too, provide them with a waning amount of oxygen. There were many things going on in the above excerpt, yes? I thought it would be fun to post this week's grammar tip as a companion to last week's tip on the misuse of commas. Where last week we dealt with the use of too many commas, or the misplacement of commas, what we are dealing with this week, basically, is an almost complete lack of punctuation with too many complete ideas.

You must understand that a run-on sentence doesn't have to be a really long sentence, or a run-off-at-the-mouth sentence. Oh no. It can quite easily be a short sentence. Basically, in a run-on sentence, independent clauses (an independent clause is a complete sentence) are joined together without the help of any punctuation or use of a conjunction word.

For example:

Incorrect: Jasper is sweet Jasper is emotional.

Um. Yeah. He is both of these things; but, we need a semi-colon, a comma and conjunction word, or a period, for example, between the two independent clauses above, or else we have a run-on sentence, oui? Why? Because we have two complete ideas mashed together. Let's fix, shall we?

Correct: Jasper is sweet; Jasper is emotional.
Correct: Jasper is sweet, and Jasper is emotional.
Correct: Jasper is sweet. Jasper is emotional.

Remember: as long as clauses are punctuated properly, you can put together many, many independent clauses in one single sentence. A "sentence" can go on forever if punctuated or conjoined appropriately.

I hope you have found today's grammar tip helpful, everyone!


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