Run-on sentences
Posted: 12 November 2013 05:18 AM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  3374
Joined  2007-02-26

I just ran a sentence on, and it felt so right! I’ve never done it before and now I’m wondering what I’ve missed out on all these years.

Consider a sentence of the type:

If you find it has a white stripe above the spectrum, then it is not a black duck; it’s a mallard.

You’ll see here I’ve used a semi-colon. I would think this would be the widely accepted option.

Another acceptable option would be to start a new sentence, of course.

If you find it has a white stripe above the spectrum, then it is not a black duck. It’s a mallard.

Subtle difference of emphasis between these options but no doubt they will be passing the same factual information to the reader.

Somehow neither of these options quite capture the flow of this sentence (or these sentences). In my head, the final clause here has a more direct logical connection to the previous clause. They are a pair. The THEN points to two separate yet twinned resultant facts with equal weight.  I can’t think of a situation in which I would be more tempted to opt for the illegal comma than this one.

If you find it has a white stripe above the spectrum, then it is not a black duck, it’s a mallard.

How do you feel about all this?

Posted: 12 November 2013 06:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  3754
Joined  2007-01-29

it is not a black duck, it’s a mallard

The only thing wrong with this as far as I’m concerned is the discrepancy between “it is” and “it’s,” which feels slightly unnatural to me.  That’s the only thing I’d query if I were copyediting it.

Posted: 12 November 2013 08:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Total Posts:  3002
Joined  2007-01-31

Many, if not most, punctuation guides allow for commas separating independent clauses if at least one is short (as here) and they have a close logical connection (as here).  Miss Thistlebottom might call this a run-on sentence, I wouldn’t.

Posted: 12 November 2013 02:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Total Posts:  5168
Joined  2007-01-03

A semicolon would be the absolutely correct way to do it, but Dr. T is right, a comma is okay here. A dash would work too, but that might be too much emphasis. I wouldn’t correct it to a period/full stop; while also orthographically correct, that would sever the close relationship the two clauses have.

I agree with Languagehat; it is and it’s should be parallel.

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