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Use the Power of a Semicolon to Avoid Run-On Sentences

A run-on sentence is a “sentence collision,” created when two independent clauses are not correctly joined. You’ll want to avoid run-ons to improve clarity and effectiveness in your writing. And they’re so easy to fix that you may find yourself volunteering to fix run-ons in the writing of your friends and colleagues!

Examples of sentence collisions:

She loves her job however she’s going to resign.

Zoe has asked for a reduced work schedule she wants to work no more than 30 hours per week.

Pablo has exceeded his budget, therefore, the remainder of his plans will need to be put on hold until next year.

Both “halves” of each sentence include a subject and a verb, and each half could exist as a separate sentence.

To fix, you can do one of three things:

  • Separate into two sentences
  • Add a comma and the word “and,” following the first clause
  • Add a semicolon, either with our without a connecting adverb
    (Think about it like this: Connecting adverbs [however, therefore, thus, hence, moreover, consequently] are not as strong as true conjunctions [and, because]; they need the industrial-strength punctuation of a semicolon, rather than the weaker comma.)

Typically, it’s the semicolon that’s the answer. The run-on is most often formed when the writer wants to show close association between the two clauses by placing them in one sentence, and simply needs an “upgrade” in punctuation.

Corrected sentences:

She loves her job; however she’s going to resign.

Zoe has asked for a reduced work schedule; she wants to work no more than 30 hours per week.

Pablo has exceeded his budget; therefore, the remainder of his plans will need to be put on hold until next year.

If the semicolon is one of the neglected children in the family of punctuation marks these days
. . . . the apostrophe is the abused victim.

—John Humphrys

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