Archive for October 2009

Run on Sentences and Comma Splices Part One

October 26, 2009

The most common error I mark on college or university papers is the comma splice. This error is using a comma when a period or semicolon is needed. It is an error. To be able to fix this error, we must be able to identify an independent clause. An independent clause has a subject and a verb and can stand on its own giving meaning. It makes sense. It could be a sentence. If there is more than one independent clause in a sentence, there must be a semicolon or a period separating them.  A run on sentence is where no punctuation is put between two independent clauses.  There must be a period or a semicolon between two independent clauses. For more information on identifying independent clauses please see last month’s blog about writing complete sentences.

B) RUN-ON SENTENCES AND COMMA SPLICES

Beside using fragments in the fast pace of everyday conversation, we also tend to run together several ideas or statements in a row. This verbal habit can sneak into our writing in the form of RUN-ON SENTENCES and COMMA SPLICES, which are, again, ungrammatical.

faulty: It’s a gorgeous day today, the sun is shining.

revised: It’s a gorgeous day today. The sun is shining.

faulty: Give me a chance I can do better.

revised: Give me a chance; I can do better.

You have already seen how fragments can interfere with the meaning of a sentence. RUN-ON sentences and COMMA SPLICES can cause similar problems of unclear meaning. While a fragment occurs when a sentence is broken apart, RUN-ONS and COMMA SPLICES develop when sentences are incorrectly fused or spliced together.

EXERCISE:

Each of the following is either a RUN-ON sentence or a COMMA SPLICE. Draw a line between the independent clauses (complete sentences). Cross out any incorrect commas.

1. I like rock music, I don’t like jazz.

2. The invitation was beautiful it was hand-lettered.

3. The pen is out of ink it needs a refill.

4. The movie was long, it lasted three hours.

5. Thanks for your comment, I do want your help.

Mark “OK” for a complete sentence, “RO” for a run-on sentence, or “CS” for a comma splice.

1. They were neighbours they were good friends.

2. A bad grade bothers me, don’t think it doesn’t.

3. She isn’t coming, she has no transportation.

4. Ann has wanted to buy the ring since she saw it in the

store window.

5. There were two seats left, we took them.

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Avoiding fragments Part Two

October 5, 2009

A GROUP OF WORDS CONTAINING A SUBJECT AND A VERB IS CALLED A CLAUSE. ONLY AN INDEPENDENT CLAUSE CAN STAND ALONE AS A COMPLETE SENTENCE.

a) An independent clause has a subject and a verb.

eg. The book fell from the bookshelf.

b) A dependent clause has a subject and a verb but cannot stand alone because it begins with the following conditional words or word groups:

if, because, when, since, before, after, until, which, as, as if, as soon as, although, though, unless

eg. Because I was sick.

If I cannot get my Porsche started.

who, which, whom, whose, what, that

eg. Frank who was the general manger of the restaurant.

The book on space shuttles that I have been looking for.

The following is an independent clause (a complete sentence):

He ran to the store.

But if we put any of the conditional words in front of it, it becomes a dependent clause (a fragment):

Because he ran to the store.

When he ran to the store.

If he ran to the store.

We can, however, turn these fragments into complete sentences by adding an independent clause (a complete sentence):

Because he ran to the store, he made it there on time.

He tripped and hurt his knee when he ran to the store.

Why was he late if he ran to the store?

EXERCISE:

Mark “I” for an independent clause and “D” for a dependent clause. If the clause is dependent (a fragment), add an independent clause  to make it a complete sentence.

1. I we went to the movies

2. ___                  since I am a student

3. ___                  Frank and Susan are married

4. ___                  although she is a fast runner

5. ___                  if it is a good place to shop

6. ___                  the Rockies look magnificent

NOTE: WHEN A DEPENDENT CLAUSE COMES AT THE BEGINNING OF A SENTENCE, IT IS FOLLOWED BY A COMMA, AND THEN AN INDEPENDENT CLAUSE.

eg.   When he spoke, the audience was silent.

Before they arrived, I set the table.

Since you asked, I will tell you.

HOWEVER, IF THE INDEPENDENT CLAUSE COMES FIRST, A COMMA IS NOT NECESSARY–EXCEPT IF IT IS NECESSARY TO MAKE THE MEANING CLEAR

eg.   The audience was silent when he spoke.

I set the table before they arrived.

I will tell you, since you asked.