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LANGUAGE ARTS, LESSON III

Run-Ons and Comma Splices


Run-ons and comma splices are one of the most frequent sentence structure problems that occur on the GED® exam. As opposed to fragments (discussed earlier), run-on sentences and comma splices attempt to combine too much information into a single sentence. A run-on sentence will contain more than one sentence within it that should either be separated into two different sentences or should be combined differently to make it grammatically correct. An example of a run-on sentence is below:

The Spencer Davis Group consisted of members Steve Winwood, Spencer Davis, Muff Winwood, Pete York, and was an influential musical group in the early sixties they wrote the hit single 'Gimme Some Lovin'.'


If you rely on the punctuation in the above sentence, it seems that there is only a single sentence in the example above. The first letter of the sentence begins with a capital letter, several of the words are separated by commas, and there is a period at the end of the sentence, all of which indicate that this is a complete sentence. In addition, the above example contains a Subject, Predicate, and a Complete Thought. However, the above example is a run-on sentence because it contains more than one sentence, and these sentences are not combined in the correct way. If a sentence contains two or more sentences that are combined without the appropriate punctuation or a conjunction, the resulting sentence is a run-on.

Another similar sentence structure error often used in the GED® test is a comma splice. A comma splice is the result of two or more sentences that are combined with the use of a comma when another type of punctuation is actually necessary. If you were to only use a comma to try to correct the above run-on sentence, it would create a comma splice and would still be considered incorrect.

COMMA SPLICE

The Spencer Davis Group consisted of members Steve Winwood, Spencer Davis, Muff Winwood and Pete York, and was an influential musical group in the early sixties, they wrote the hit single 'Gimme Some Lovin'.'

The above correction is still grammatically wrong. If you are attempting to fix a run-on sentence with no connecting word and only one punctuation mark, you cannot use a comma.

HOW TO FIX A COMMA SPLICE OR RUN-ON SENTENCE

There are several different methods you can use to fix comma splices and run-on sentences. Two different simple punctuation marks alone will fix the problem: a period or a semicolon. Here is how to fix the above run-on sentence with a period:

The Spencer Davis Group consisted of members Steve Winwood, Spencer Davis, Muff Winwood and Pete York, and was an influential musical group in the early sixties. They wrote the hit single 'Gimme Some Lovin.'

The period is placed in between the two sentences. The only additional change that needs to be made is to capitalize the first letter of the second sentence. This is perhaps the easiest way to correct a run-on. Once you can recognize that there are two different complete sentences, you might as well make them that way. Just re-check that each sentence contains the three necessary components of a complete sentence: Subject, Predicate, and a Complete Thought.

Another way to appropriately combine two sentences so that they will not become either a run-on or a comma splice is to use a semicolon. In this instance, you will not need to capitalize the beginning of the second clause since it is not an independent sentence.

The Spencer Davis Group consisted of members Steve Winwood, Spencer Davis, Muff Winwood and Pete York, and was an influential musical group in the early sixties; they wrote the hit single 'Gimme Some Lovin.'

Comma splices and run-ons can also be effectively revised through the use of connecting or joining words. The most common connecting word is and. There are also other words that can be used to connect independent clauses that were discussed earlier in the independent clause section of the lesson. These joining words can also be called coordinating conjunctions, and each word implies a specific meaning. A chart briefly detailing these meanings is listed below:

COORDINATING CONJUNCTION MEANING

And used to add information
Or used to provide an alternative or contrast
For this provides a reason
Yet used to show contrast
But adds contrast
Nor used to discard alternatives
So provides results

HYPHENATION

The correct way to use a hyphen is when there is a compound adjective that is positioned directly in front of the noun that it modifies. The following is a list of examples in which hyphens are used correctly.

Example 1: She was the most-liked girl in gym class.
Example 2: The well-groomed dog came in first place at the show.
Example 3: Jimmy Hendrix is often considered to be the best-known guitar player in the world.

The following is a list of hyphens used incorrectly:

Example 1: She likes the black-cat the best.
Example 2: Doug likes to dance to music that people don't usually-like.
Example 3: I hate the taste of peppers when they haven't been cooked-well.

SEMICOLONS

There are two major uses for semicolons that you should become familiar with in order to spot errors in both of the Language Arts Writing sections. You should be able to effectively utilize semicolons in your Essay section as well. Always keep in mind the four areas of criteria that you will be tested on.

Semicolon errors could appear in any of these four sections (sentence structure, usage, mechanics, and organization.) If a semicolon is placed next to a transition word, such as “however,” it should always be placed in front of the word. An example follows:

The cat lay comfortably next to the fireplace; however, she did not know that soon her fur would become too hot, and she would have to move to a cooler spot.

If these clauses were separated by a period, the period would also be placed in front of the transition word “however,” thus creating two separate complete sentences. This option would look like this:

The cat lay comfortably next to the fireplace. However, she did not know that soon her fur would become too hot, and she would have to move to a cooler spot.

However, a semicolon is a perfectly correct option in this instance and is therefore sometimes referred to as a “weak period”, since it can join two clauses by replacing a period. This was discussed briefly above, but is an important point to repeat since this type of question is often used on the GED® test. A period is also often referred to as a “strong comma” since it can be used effectively to combine two independent clauses when a comma cannot. In order to see if a semicolon should be used in a sentence, simply replace it in your mind. If the two clauses of the sentence can act as sentences independent of one another, then the semicolon is in the correct place.

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