How to Avoid Run-on Sentences in Academic Writing

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When writing a paper, are you more focused on ideas or writing style? For most people, the focus is on the ideas they discuss. As a result, one thing that might get lost while writing is the importance of punctuation and sentence structure.

In academic writing, it is important to develop your writing skills. An ability to construct short, impactful sentences will help you clearly articulate your ideas and build a more effective paper.

Why Researchers Use Long Sentences

Academic writing requires a proficiency in presenting complex ideas in clear language. However, as researchers attempt to communicate complex ideas, sentences could become long and complicated. This, in turn, could negatively affect your paper.

Here is an example of a long sentence:

  • In botany there are many factors that affect the overall health of flora, for example it is important to maintain the right balance of sunlight, food source, watering schedule, and good soil to prolong the life of a plant.
    • This example crams too many ideas into one long sentence. It is difficult to understand each idea separately because it continues without a clear break between ideas.

This sentence is wordy and confusing. A reader has to navigate a string of words and ideas without a break. This makes it difficult to process the given information.

Run-on Sentences vs. Long Sentences

As we have discussed, long sentences can be confusing. However, not all long sentences are run-on sentences. Long sentences are often too wordy and include multiple ideas. Run-on sentences are incorrect because of either misused or missing punctuation.

Here is an example of a run-on sentence:

  • I am a writer, I like to write novels.
    • This is a run-on sentence it contains two independent clauses that are fused together.

Run-on sentences crammed with multiple ideas will be less clear than a well-structured, shorter sentence that conveys one idea.

How to Fix Run-on Sentences

Researchers want to convey a lot of ideas. But, when writing, you cannot simply run a string of ideas together or fuse two complete sentences into one sentence. You must find ways to both convey these ideas while using proper grammar and sentence structure. So, if you find too many run-on sentences in your paper, it is important to know the following four solutions.

Here is an example of a run-on sentence:

I first became interested in biology when I was 10, I want to be a biology professor at a university.

  • Write the two independent clauses as two separate sentences.

I first became interested in biology when I was 10. I want to be a biologist at a research university.

  • Use a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) after a comma.

I first became interested in biology when I was 10, and I want to be a biologist at a research university

  • Use a semicolon between the two independent clauses.

I first became interested in biology when I was 10; I want to be a biologist at a research university

  • Use a semicolon and a linking word between the two independent clauses.

I first became interested in biology when I was 10; therefore, I want to be a biologist at a research university

There are many tips for working on sentence length. And, as these examples show, the importance of good punctuation usage should not be understated. As the examples above show, this can help you improve your abilities as an academic writer.

What are your experiences with long sentences and run-on sentences? How have you overcome any difficulties with your own writing? Please share with us in the comments section below.


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