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Author Topic: Dealing with annoying English grammar errors (18th in a series of 20)  (Read 146 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: January 04, 2018, 11:52:42 PM »

This is the 18th in a series of 20 essays on what I consider as the 10 most annoying English grammar errors. It is running consecutively here in the Forum from November 7, 2017 every Tuesday and Friday until January 12, 2018.

10 – The problem with fused or run-on sentences

We finally come to the tenth of the grammar error types that I find most annoying: fused or run-on sentences. I am discussing them last not because I consider them less annoying than the first nine types, but because they are a higher-level error that needs special remedial focus. Indeed, fused sentences or run-on sentences go beyond the nuts and bolts of English grammar, and their frequent appearance in writing shows that the writer has not yet mastered the art of connecting ideas in English.


                   IMAGE CREDIT: SLIDEPLAYER.COM

A fused or run-on sentence, we will recall, is formed when two or more clauses are improperly linked or wrongly punctuated, resulting in a poorly articulated an confusing statement, Its most elementary form is the comma splice, as in this bewildering sentence from a print ad in a housekeeping magazine:

“Being a working grandmother is not as easy as it seems, I have to fulfill my tasks as a career woman and at the same time maintain sanity in the household.”

Here, it is obvious that the comma proves inadequate to the task of punctuating the two clauses and fails to establish the logical connection between them.

A simple fix for this comma splice is to reinforce the comma with a coordinating conjunction, say “for,” to clearly establish that logical connection:

“Being a working grandmother is not as easy as it seems, for I have to fulfill my tasks as a career woman and at the same time maintain sanity in the household.”

Another fix, if a less elegant one, is doing away with the comma altogether and using the subordinating conjunction “because” instead:

“Being a working grandmother is not as easy as it seems because it involves fulfilling my tasks as a career woman even as I try to maintain sanity in the household.”

Fused sentences of the run-on variety, on the other hand, often crop up when the writer or editor is so gung-ho in dropping the subordinating conjunction “that” in sentences involving relative clauses, as in this bewildering specimen from a recent issue of a leading newspaper:

“Marriage is an important social institution that should be safeguarded, said the decision was penned by Justice Josefina Guevara-Salonga.”

For that sentence to make sense, we need to supply “that” in the attribution clause right after the word “decision”:

“Marriage is an important social institution that should be safeguarded, said the decision that was penned by Justice Josefina Guevara-Salonga.”

Of course, the elliptical construction that drops “that” is also permissible, but for this option, the linking verb “was” that follows I should also be dropped to avoid truncating the sentence:

“Marriage is an important social institution that should be safeguarded, said the decision (…) penned by Justice Josefina Guevara-Salonga.”

The worst fused sentences, however, are those that cram and deliver too much information in just one long, nonstop burst, like this particularly mixed-up specimen from a leading newspaper not too long ago:

“The Philippines and North Korea are set to sign bilateral agreements seen to herald a new era of relations between the two countries during the meeting of foreign ministers of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) which opens in Manila today.”

That fused sentence, of course, can be boiled down to four independent clauses that can stand as complete sentences in themselves:

(1) “The Philippines and North Korea are set to sign bilateral agreements.”
(2) “These agreements are seen to herald a new er in relations between the two countries.”
(3) “The signing of the bilateral agreements will be done during the meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean).”
(4) “That meeting opens in Manila today.”

The problem was that when those four sentences were combined into just one sentence, hardly any effort was made to clarify their logical relationships, thus resulting in a terribly run-on construction.

As an exercise for this refresher on fused sentences, see if you can combine the four clauses above in a way that clearly establishes those logical relationships. If you feel you've done a good job at it, post and share it here in the Forum.


This essay, 18th in a series of 20, first appeared in the column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the November 25, 2007 issue of The Manila Times. It subsequently formed part of the book The 10 Most Annoying English Grammar Errors, ©2008 by the author, © 2009 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

(This ends the 18-part series discussing the 10 most annoying English grammar errors from my experience as a writer and editor. There will be two more parts to complete the 20-part series—the 19th part on January 9, 2018 to present alternative reconstructions of the highly problematic fused sentence at the tail end of Part 18 above, and the 20th part on January 12 to wrap up all ten types of most annoying English grammar errors.)

(Next: Defusing a terribly fused sentence)      January 9, 2018
« Last Edit: January 05, 2018, 09:13:30 AM by Joe Carillo » Logged

Miss Mae
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« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2018, 11:33:10 AM »

How about this, Sir:

“The Philippines and North Korea are set to sign bilateral agreements during the meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) in Manila today to herald a new era in relations between the two countries.”
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