Comma splicing, run on sentences, and me


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  1. #1
    Wɾˇʇˇ∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Comma splicing, run on sentences, and me

    Can someone set me straight on something? Run-on sentences, and in particular comma-splicing: are they, within the contemporary English language, a valid thing? I always thought not, and can recall at quite a young age getting irritated with my older sister for using them, but I see them so much that I am starting to doubt myself. Is it a stylistic thing? In what styles are they permissible? Or are they never right?

    Please can someone shed light on this issue, it is a big stumbling block for me, thanks in advance.*




    *this is an example of what I mean


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    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"

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  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post

    Please can someone shed light on this issue, it is a big stumbling block for me, thanks in advance.*




    *this is an example of what I mean

    If you were to ask me to read that sentence, that's exactly how I would read it. So why is it wrong to punctuate it that way? I to am corrected all the for the very issues you bring up.
    God hates a coward Revelation 21:8

    “Good writin' ain't necessarily good readin'.”

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    To encourage and facilitate "me"

  3. #3
    Wɾˇʇˇ∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Plasticweld View Post
    If you were to ask me to read that sentence, that's exactly how I would read it. So why is it wrong to punctuate it that way? I to am corrected all the for the very issues you bring up.
    Yes but if you read it with a semi-colon or a full-stop / period in there [EDIT: or an m-dash], would it really sound different? I'm primarily interested in how it should be written. I suppose I think it is "incorrect" (unless it's a property of voice) because independent clauses should be separate, to achieve a sense of control and completeness, from one thought to the next. Running them all together just ... seems wrong, like a bout of verbal burble.

    Let Mufasa and Simba illustrate:






    Christ, for a drop-dead second I thought there was a CS separating the very clauses that sought to decry them, & my heart went "spork!"
    Last edited by bdcharles; January 9th, 2017 at 12:17 PM.


    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge


    Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"

    *

    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous

    *

    C'mon everybody, don't need this crap.
    - Wham!





  4. #4
    Well let's start with - it's wrong.

    Second - what are you reading that they are so prevalent?
    (and it's still wrong)


    Third why it's wrong - besides all the good grammatical reasons why it's wrong, from a writing point of view the object is to be clear; to convey our story through words to the reader in the best way possible. Now the words we choose, and how we string them together are not the whole story. We also need to be aware of the mechanics of how people read. I know that you will almost certainly never have heard someone talk about the mechanics of reading as a part of writing well, but I do and it's important.

    In English we are conditioned from an early age to read things in a certain way. By the time we are adults the mechanics of how we recognise what we read and the effect it has on our comprehension of what we read are subconscious processes, but when an author comes along and disrupts what is familiar we pause and go 'huh' and reread it in order to understand what we just read.

    So let's consider that a huge clunky lumbering hunk of a run on sentence, we can join any number of sentence fragments, or phrases together, in any manner of ways, and to some extent they will remain understandable, but if you carry on too long, the reader starts to think, what the hell did I just read, and also if you don't give them a chance to 'take a breath' it gets very tiring, and you start to wonder if the sentence is ever going to end; but it still stays understandable, but by now the reader is thinking 'damn' and any number of things not related to what they are reading, but why the hell they are reading it, and that, my friends, is the last damn thought you want to put in your reader's head, and I bet you just heaved a huge sigh of relief that you finally reached this full stop. And THAT is why you use them!

  5. #5
    BD, those are all complete sentences. So where do you draw the line? If that were okay, then theoretically, you could do an entire book without periods. Seriously though, there is a difference between a hard stop (Period), and a pause (semi-colon, comma). I find your sentence needs more than a slight pause between those thoughts, even if I had no idea what the correct punctuation was supposed to be. But add to that all of the college essays where I had 10 points taken off for a run on sentence or for a comma splice, then it literally jumps out at me such that I can't even focus on the content. I expect many people would notice this pretty quickly. And for me, I am going to have people critical of my writing for so many reasons, I don't want the one thing I can get right, punctuation, to be one of them or for it to distract from the story.

    I have a wonderful book called Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, by Ursula K. Le Guin, one of my favorite speculative fiction authors. This is what she says on the topic. You can buy the book here. It has wonderful writing exercises on rhythm (as Elle was mentioning reading out loud above), punctuation, point of view, etc.


    THE POET CAROLYN KIZER SAID TO ME once, "Poets are interested mostly in death and commas.” Maybe storytellers are interested mostly in life and commas. If you aren’t interested in punctuation, or are afraid of it, you’re missing out on some of the most beautiful, elegant tools a writer has to work with. This topic is closely related to the last one, because punctuation tells the reader how to hear your writing. That’s what it’s for. Commas and periods bring out the grammatical structure of a sentence; they make it clear to the understanding, and the emotions, by showing what it sounds like— where the breaks come, where to pause.

    If you read music, you know that rests are signs for silence. Punctuation marks serve very much the same purpose.

    The period means stop for a moment the semicolon means pause and the comma means either pause very briefly or expect some change the dash is a pause that sets a phrase apart

    Those words make sense if you work at it a bit. The work you’re doing to make sense of them is punctuating them. There are some firm rules of punctuation, but there’s almost always a good deal of personal choice. The way I’d do it in this case is:

    The period means stop—for a moment. The semicolon means pause; and the comma means either pause very briefly or expect some change. The dash is a pause that sets a phrase apart.

    Some alternate choices are possible, but the wrong choices alter the meaning, or lose meaning altogether . . .

    - Le Guin, Ursula K.. Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story (pp. 11-12). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.


  6. #6
    The second comma I would make a full stop. I could also do the same to the first. However, the first could be replaced by a conjunction (because or as). As it currently stands, I say it's incorrect.


  7. #7
    There's nothing wrong with run-on sentences and comma splices when they are deliberately used for effect.

    The problem is that they're often used incorrectly by people who don't know how to write a full and proper sentence. From that, there is a tendency to assume that anyone who uses one is doing so because they don't know any different.

    PS: The only difference between a run-on sentence and a comma splice is improper use of a comma where either a full stop or a semicolon should be. A run-on sentence usually employs no punctuation.

    Comma splice: We went to the movies last week, we saw Gladiator.

    Run-on: ​We went to the movies last week we saw Gladiator.
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    "It is better to be feared than loved, if one cannot be both". ~ Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince.

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    "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few". ~ Shunryu Suzuki.

    "Give a man a mask and he will show you his true face". ~ Oscar Wilde.

    "He who learns but does not think is lost; he who thinks but does not learn is in great danger". ~ Confucius.

  8. #8
    Wɾˇʇˇ∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ell337 View Post
    Well let's start with - it's wrong.

    ...

    So let's consider that a huge clunky lumbering hunk of a run on sentence, we can join any number of sentence fragments, or phrases together, in any manner of ways, and to some extent they will remain understandable, but if you carry on too long, the reader starts to think, what the hell did I just read, and also if you don't give them a chance to 'take a breath' it gets very tiring, and you start to wonder if the sentence is ever going to end; but it still stays understandable, but by now the reader is thinking 'damn' and any number of things not related to what they are reading, but why the hell they are reading it, and that, my friends, is the last damn thought you want to put in your reader's head, and I bet you just heaved a huge sigh of relief that you finally reached this full stop. And THAT is why you use them!
    I think the issue with comma-splicing is that it reflects how people speak - in a rush, sometimes, with the flight of ideas that characterises rich and dynamic conversation. But when it's when it is translated to narrative writing (unless it's dialogue of a similar ilk as the conversation) that it gets inconcise, unable to really evoke anything. It is a different medium to the spoken word.

    I would say though that that big long sentence was not really comma spliced. It was just long, though it captured a complete concept. Sentences should encapsulate ideas, images, and so on and when they splice with another the images all bleed into one and, in my view, it gets messy and unsubtle.

    Quote Originally Posted by TKent View Post
    BD, those are all complete sentences. So where do you draw the line? If that were okay, then theoretically, you could do an entire book without periods. Seriously though, there is a difference between a hard stop (Period), and a pause (semi-colon, comma). I find your sentence needs more than a slight pause between those thoughts, even if I had no idea what the correct punctuation was supposed to be. But add to that all of the college essays where I had 10 points taken off for a run on sentence or for a comma splice, then it literally jumps out at me such that I can't even focus on the content. I expect many people would notice this pretty quickly. And for me, I am going to have people critical of my writing for so many reasons, I don't want the one thing I can get right, punctuation, to be one of them or for it to distract from the story.
    Ah but punctuation is so much more than just pauses; it gives readers moments to consider, lends structure to ideas and flow to the meaning of the text, adds impact and suggestion and nuance to the words. I think this might be where people get unstuck, by thinking of it as just pauses. For eg. in that sample sentence, I would say that none of the commas should be there. A single sentence contains one complete idea. Those clauses are three separate ideas. There is no dependence from one to the other. If there was any dependence, it can be expressed using a semi-colon, or m-dash (assuming we're not going to add conjunctions or anything)

    "Please can someone shed light on this issue, it is a big stumbling block for me, thanks in advance."
    "Please can someone shed light on this issue; it is a big stumbling block for me. Thanks in advance."

    I suppose those two look and feel different. As I say, I think the first could work only in dialogue or in a voice where a certain rapidity of thought was a feature. But I see it alot in narration that possesses no other discernible voice. The second is more formal. It's actually a bad example because it's dialogguey. Let's try something else:

    "Clouds drifted across the sky, a plane flew overhead." => I mean, unless the character speaking it was rather dreamy, in which case it could work, this seems like my cat wrote it.

    "Clouds drifted across the sky; a plane flew overhead." => this seems to suggest some relation between the clouds and the plane, some hinted meaning, almost like a knowing wink. The meaning might just be to collect these things together, perceived, for example, by the same character and evoking the same emotion in them.

    "A plane threaded through clouds, vanishing briefly before inching its way across the open sky." => this would seem to be my ideal. The same event is described, the same stuff happens, but the verbs are richer; threaded is quite physical, vanishing adds some change and more motion, inching suggests size, distance - almost like a great journey has been embarked upon. The sentence has rhythm and flow and is just a bit more, I dunno, grown up somehow.

    Otherwise it's like, I dunno, trying to get two people into one suit.


    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Istine View Post
    The second comma I would make a full stop. I could also do the same to the first. However, the first could be replaced by a conjunction (because or as). As it currently stands, I say it's incorrect.
    I agree


    Quote Originally Posted by Sam View Post
    There's nothing wrong with run-on sentences and comma splices when they are deliberately used for effect.

    The problem is that they're often used incorrectly by people who don't know how to write a full and proper sentence. From that, there is a tendency to assume that anyone who uses one is doing so because they don't know any different.
    It is easy to assume that but I do think voice and whether it is dialogue or not play a part (which would feed into "effect" as you say. It's when I see it in narration, though, particularly where the voice is not particularly prevalent otherwise, I can't shake the notion that it's just an error, or that things are somehow not fully conceptualised.


    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge


    Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"

    *

    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous

    *

    C'mon everybody, don't need this crap.
    - Wham!





  9. #9
    The number of times and places a run on sentence can be used effectively are far and few; the number of places it is actually used to good effect by a skillful author ... are there any?

  10. #10
    Yes, there are.
    Hidden Content

    Hidden Content

    "One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got into my pyjamas I'll never know." ~ Groucho Marx.

    "It is better to be feared than loved, if one cannot be both". ~ Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince.

    "A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer". ~ Bruce Lee.

    "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few". ~ Shunryu Suzuki.

    "Give a man a mask and he will show you his true face". ~ Oscar Wilde.

    "He who learns but does not think is lost; he who thinks but does not learn is in great danger". ~ Confucius.

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