The Run-On Sentence

Outtakes 148


The Run-On Sentence

By Cait Collins


Have you ever listened to a person talk on and on and on without ever saying anything?

After a while, it like the Charlie Brown animated programs where adults are saying, “Awanah, Awanah, Awanah.” Or to put it in more modern terms, “Yada, yada, yada.” Needless to say, we don’t truly enjoy the conversation. The interminable chat is akin to reading a run-on sentence in a book or story. Which would lead one to believe all run-on sentences should be avoided at all costs.

Not necessarily true. The never-ending sentence just might be a way to edit a particularly weak section of your current work. Take another look at the troubled portion of your novel. Now rewrite it as one long sentence. No punctuation. No editing. Instead of periods, commas, semi-colons,or quotation marks, use connecting words such as and, and so, but, then, then so, which means, neither, nor, either, or and so forth. Do not stop writing. Completely retell the section in one sentence. Expand the sentence outward, adding details and new thoughts.

Now read your sentence adding the punctuation. Check your verbs. Are they active or passive? Count the verbs. Underline the active verbs and circle the passive. What is your ratio of active to passive? What have you added to the sentence that was not in the original piece? Are the additions valuable to the telling of the story? Check what you have neglected to include in the sentence. Will the story stand well without the omissions or do you need to add some of the information to the rewrite? Has the section improved by using this exercise?

Normally free writing produces better work. Without the internal editor interfering with the creative process, we write with the heart and soul instead of with technical tools. This is just one tool the writer has to improve his work. Just remember the unedited sentence cannot remain in your story.

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