Possibly the most common English grammar problem people have in business writing is what I think of asÂ â€śthe curse of the run-on sentence.â€ť Many of my students, (and some clients too), send me material filled with run-on sentences.
A run-on sentence does exactly what its name suggests; it â€śruns onâ€ť too long. In fact, itâ€™s a mistake to think of a run-on sentence as expressing one thought. What they actually are is two or more sentences strung together with improper punctuation.
York Universityâ€™s Bethune College Writing Centre is a good online English grammar rules resource for determining how run-on sentences work. Hereâ€™s one simple example of a short, but run-on sentence that I quite like, from their website:
â€śGordon laughed at Sandyâ€™s joke it was lewd.â€ť
Leaving aside the fact that I would never make a lewd joke, (joke!), with the necessary punctuation, the sentence would correctly read:
â€śGordon laughed at Sandyâ€™s joke; it was lewd.â€ť
In this example, the semi colon takes the place of the word â€śand,â€ť joining the two independent sentences together.
Why, you may ask, should run-on sentences be viewed as a â€ścurse?â€ť Hereâ€™s why: If the sentence turns out to be quite a bit longer than the one that is used in the above example of a run-on sentence and there isnâ€™t correct punctuation or maybe itâ€™s just that thereâ€™s too many individual sentences crammed into one it becomes confusing.
Have I made it clear?
If youâ€™re someone who suffers the curse of the run-on sentence, you may be wondering at this point how best to escape your fate. Really, itâ€™s not that difficult. Simply look at your run on sentences, and incorporate one of the following English grammar rules into your business communications:
- Create two sentences
- Use a semi-colon
- Use a subordinating conjunction
- Use commas, colons or dashes. (Correctly, of course!)
English grammar rule #4 may make you ask, â€śokay, but how do I use commas, etc. correctly.â€ť Obviously thatâ€™s too much to get into in this one little blog post. So you may want to delve a little deeper into the matter through online resources, including the Language Labâ€™s own online public programs.
Now a quick word about sentence fragments. Like this one. Sentence fragments are easily identified because theyâ€™re incomplete thoughts that cannot stand by themselves. Complete sentences, at the very least, have a subject and a verb. Hereâ€™s an example:
Incorrect: All of these rules and regulations should be made aware of.
Correct: Clients should be made aware of all these rules and regulations.
Itâ€™s true there is a time and a place for sentence fragments â€“ in blog posts, possibly. Blogging is a style of writing thatâ€™s less formal than business writing generally is. But when it comes to basic business communication, even in this day and age of tweeting and emailing and texting, there is still an expectation that correct English grammar and punctuation rule.
Are you suffering from â€śthe curse of the run on sentence?â€ť Send in an example and Iâ€™ll troubleshoot it for you.