One of the most common writing tips, repeated in blog posts and how-to articles all over the web, is avoid run-on sentences. Instead, use short, snappy sentences to pull your readers in and keep them reading.
Unfortunately, novice writers often mistake run-on sentences for literary flare. Comma after comma separates thoughts and ideas which should effectively be ended with periods and semicolons. When this mistake appears repeatedly (predominantly in self-published eBooks) readers are quick to pick up on it.
If you make this common editing mistake, and don’t fix it before you publish, you can be sure that your readers will comment. This may affect your reputation as a writer, and have a negative effect on your readership.
How Run-On Sentences Put Off Your Readers
Apart from being grammatically incorrect, run-on sentences are hard on your readers. It means they need to work in order to extract meaning from your words. And making them work at reading will ruin the effect you’re trying to achieve: your reader’s undivided attention on what you are writing about.
Here is an example of a run-on-sentence from a self-published fiction novel, Carnage, by Lesley Jones:
I look back toward my brother, waiting for the popping [of Pop Rocks] to stop in my mouth so I could give him some attitude about the [dirty] look on his face when my world suddenly stopped turning, it stuttered for a few seconds, then restarted, erratically matching the rhythm of the candy exploding inside me but when I swallowed, the explosions didn’t stop, they went down into my chest and on into my stomach, settling uncomfortably down low in my belly, for some reason the sensation was causing my brain to cease its connection to my mouth, leaving me devoid of speech.
With so many commas, and not a period or semicolon in the mix for good measure, that is a difficult passage to read. Now compare that to the version below, edited for the purpose of this article:
I was about to give my brother attitude for the dirty look he had on his face, when my world suddenly stopped turning. It stuttered for a few seconds, then restarted. My heart thumped erratically, matching the rhythm of the candy exploding inside my mouth. But when I swallowed, the explosions didn’t stop. They went down into my chest and settled uncomfortably low in my belly. For some reason the sensation was causing my brain to cease its connection to my mouth. I was left utterly devoid of speech.
KISS: Keep It Short And Snappy
The key to writing in a way that pulls people effortlessly, from start to finish, is to write sentences that move. Short, snappy sentences move. Each thought should be separated by a period or a semicolon, not a comma.
By writing paragraphs that are composed of five or six succinct, individual sentences, you won’t be asking your reader to work at reading. And when they don’t have to work, it’s easier for them to enjoy what you’ve written.