Run-on Sentence vs Long Sentence: Understanding the Difference

Most people have heard that they should avoid writing run-on sentences. However, run-on sentences are often confused with long sentences — they aren’t the same. In fact, even a sentence that continues for over a page could be effective and appropriate in the right context, if crafted well.

The primary issue with the run-on sentence is that it’s grammatically incorrect — a syntactical error. Grammatical errors look unprofessional while also diminishing your authority and credibility.

So, it’s best to follow standard grammatical rules, since they help people write clearly. In this way, the writer has the most control over how a reader interprets and understands a piece of writing.

It is because of the cumbersome, ineffective, and confusing nature of these sentences that they are banished to the world of improper grammar.

Defining a run-on sentence

Although this term may seem simple, there’s more to it than one might think. For instance, you may assume a run-on sentence is always long and wordy.

Not every long sentence is run-on, and in fact, run-on sentences can actually be short. No matter the length of the sentence, run-ons are always grammatically incorrect.

Specifically, a run-on sentence contains two or more independent clauses that are not separated by a semicolon, period, or conjunction. For example: “I love dogs I love to walk them.”

Awkward, right?

This erroneous type of sentence often appears as a comma splice. For example: “I took my dogs to the park across the street, they love to chase squirrels along the path.”

In this last example, the writer is aware that punctuation is needed to separate the two main clauses, but they incorrectly decided to use a comma without a conjunction.

In general, the best way to resolve this issue is to use a period and create two separate sentences. If the two main clauses are intimately connected, you can use a semicolon instead.

Harnessing the power of long sentences

Most blog posts feature short, punchy sentences packed into short paragraphs. Writers rely on these types of sentences because of their simplicity and clarity.

However, there is good reason to integrate longer sentences into your blog posts. A well-written longer sentence can be used to slow the pacing of a blog, develop tension, deliver vivid descriptions, and vary sentence structure, as well as investigate an argument, idea, or fact more thoroughly.

Varying your sentence structure

Variety is the spice of life, as well as the spice in your writing.

In general, the longer the sentence, the less readers comprehend, says American Press Institute. Their study found that readers understood 90% of a story when sentences had fewer than 14 words each. Readers understood 100% of the story when sentences averaged eight words or fewer.

That said, using only short sentences throughout your copy can make it sound choppy and juvenile. Plus, a lack of variety in your sentence structure can lead readers to skim the majority of your blog post, decreasing the time on page and absorption of material.

It’s to your advantage to vary your sentence structure and length to break the monotony, provide appropriate emphasis where necessary, and keep readers engaged.

Ditching run-on sentences

Put simply, run-on sentences will hurt the quality of your content. Aim to keep your sentences clear, direct, and of course, grammatically correct.

You can use shorter sentences to ensure reader comprehension, but when you want to explore an idea more fully, sprinkle in a few longer, more complex sentences. Such variety in your sentence structure will create more engaging and effective content.

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