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  1. #1
    M. Helene Keough
    Guest

    Run-on sentences: for or against?

    Ever since my literate childhood, run-on sentences have been my defended weakness. I enjoy using this breathless approach, albiet with guarded moderation, to add calculated suspense or to manage a controlled flood of detail.

    I have read several works, however, where writers have convinced themselves to turn entire paragraphs into one long and often confusing sentence. Personally, I reel back from this heavy-handed approach.

    Would you mind sharing with me your comfort level regarding the use of this controversial and often misused tool?

    Thanks! H



  2. #2
    Jane Casey
    Guest

    Re: Run-on sentences: for or against?

    Helene,

    The first person to professionaly edit my work had red marks all over my unholy mess with one run on sentence after another. I hate reading all short chopped sentences. And, most books advise to vary sentence length. However, with run on sentences you run into problems of clarity such as: The boy went into the house, then milked the cow and painted it's kitchen.

    Or Norman smoked his cigars and chased his cough syrup with vodka while writng his book that caused everone on the forum to get drunk. That last sentence may well be very clear or everclear.

    Jane

  3. #3
    Lou
    Guest

    Re: Run-on sentences: for or against?

    I really enjoy reading them when they are used in moderation; they keep the pace rolling along nicely and, like you said, are a great tool for building suspense. As a rule of thumb, I tend to use sentences that convey the appropriate mood, whether long or short. It isn't a conscious method; I literally just go with (or restrict!) the flow.

    Here are a couple of longish sentences from my work-in-progress. Shorter breaks, I believe, would ruin the flow.

    Streaka – short for ‘streak of piss’, due to his razor-thin appearance – was all too familiar with Boardy’s slack approach; he’d been on the same community service programme three years previous for ABH, during which time they’d forged a relationship of sorts, mainly procuring (and flogging) gardening tools. Various scams had followed soon after – cheap fags from Turkey, fetish porn from ‘the ‘Dam’, water fountains from Bromley – it was all a bit Blue Peter meets The Sweeney, sipped over a cup of stewed Typhoo.

  4. #4
    Mary M.
    Guest

    Re: Run-on sentences: for or against?

    I use run-on sentences because, like many of you here,I like their pace, almost a flow, as the reader absorbs the full picture. However, when editing, I'm careful to ensure I've also interspersed shorter sentences AND that, no matter the length, the syntax is correct.

    I have read many single-sentence paragraphs in all genres and rarely find them comfortable, unless the paragraph is extremely short.

  5. #5
    Patricia Cooper
    Guest

    Re: Run-on sentences: for or against?

    I'm inclined to get a bit carried away sometimes with my narrative and have to curb my wordiness. I LIKE run-on sentences, both to read and write. However, I agree with all Mary M's comments and probably do likewise.

    patC

  6. #6
    Ian Barker
    Guest

    Re: Run-on sentences: for or against?

    If we weren't meant to write long sentences, sometimes, God would never have given us the semi-colon!

    IB

  7. #7
    M. Helene Keough
    Guest

    Re: Run-on sentences: for or against?

    Lou, thanks for your comments. I often follow a wordy plunge with a couple of short sentences, as you suggest. Ties things together nicely, don't you think? By the way, PLEASE let me know when your book's available to read. I adore your writing! Such humor.

    And Jane, thank you for your suggestions. The boy might be less confused (or confusing) if he were to milk the cow before he went into the house, and began to paint? Especially if he's using white paint. I didn't really consider that sentence unduly long, although it did show that any sentence runs the risk of becoming a tainted thing when burdened by poor syntax. Syntax might pull together the second example as well, but your cigar smoking writer needs more help than the boy, I think.

    Pat and Mary, you assuage my guilt. Gotcha! And thanks. I like short, grab-em sentences as well. What a wonderfully convenient balance. *grin*

  8. #8
    M. Helene Keough
    Guest

    To Ian

    Okay Ian,
    You have me laughing here. You've found my soft spot. Explain please, the meaning of the : as opposed to the ; if you will?
    It is the one thing grammatically that I use (and lose) with wild abandon. And I LOVE to use them both. Elucidate for me, will you please? Make me a better writer. *grin* Helene

  9. #9
    Alex Magid
    Guest

    Re: To Ian

    Run-on sentences - fine, to an extent, in descriptive paragraphs. I think the writer has to be very careful with punctuation otherwise the sentence can become a little awkward and unwieldy.
    I read part of a factual book once - the subject was the slave-trade - and the author would make sentences, full of factual detail, run for an entire paragraph. I found this heavy going and didn't finish the book.

    Best Regards

  10. #10
    Ian Barker
    Guest

    Re: To Ian

    Helene,

    Ouch! Ask me an easier one!

    It's a long time since I was at school, but the basic rules are that punctuation is a heirarchy: stop, colon, semi-colon, comma. In descending order of weight.
    Therefore a full colon ( is almost as heavy as a full stop.

    Still with me? Pay attention at the back!

    In modern English the full colon is now most commonly used to introduce a list (as above).

    The semi-colon can be used to connect two groups of words, which could be separate sentences, but which are closely related. Most often this is done with a semi-colon as in:

    "He loved circuses and carnivals; colour and movement were his adrenalin." or
    "The train shuddered to a halt; the bridge was down."

    There is nothing to stop you using a full colon for either of the above; but it is rarer.

    Clear? Thought not.

    IB

    P.S. If any smart Alec English teacher want's to tell me this is a load of #@$$@%&* feel free. But I'm doing my best OK?

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