Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Most common problem run-on sentences

 Here's an entertaining mystery, with
no run on sentences.

Alex Masters has given up prostitution and lives on the "right" side of town. She has a respectable job and is about to launch a singing career on the side. While making a deposit for her employer at Bay City Central, her past catches up with her. In the time it takes a bank robber's bullet to pierce her arm. Alex finds herself caught in a tangle of robbery, murder and blackmail.

 Question: What is the most common problem you see in manuscripts from new writers?

Answer:  It changes frequently, but lately it has been run on sentences. Most of us are taught to write term  papers. A good one states both sides of every question and explains everything for every possible direction. Sentences are expected to be long, complicated, and full of modifiers. In a college term paper, that is good writing.  In a book to be read by the average reader, it couldn't be worse.

Avoid run on sentences. A sentence should have ONE noun (name) and ONE verb (action that happens to, or because of the noun).

 Mountains float. That is a whole complete sentence. Didn't say it made sense, only that it was complete.

You can allow one explanation per sentence. Mountains float whenever we have an earthquake. But if you find more nouns and verbs, you need to put in a period and start a new sentence.

Below is an example of what we see all too often.

Mountains float whenever we have an earthquake and the creek overflows it’s banks and our old cabin shakes on its foundation, and it scares the living heck out of me so that I wake up screaming and crying with no one to help. 

Mountains float whenever we have an earthquake (Period). The creek changes course and water rises over its banks (period). Our old cabin shakes on its foundation (period). That scares the heck out of me (period). I wake, screaming and crying with no one to help (period).

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