Grammar Tips > The top 3 things ruining your sentences

The top 3 things ruining your sentences

The sentence is one of the most basic building blocks of writing. Avoid the top 3 most common mistakes that ruin your sentences with these explanations of sentence problems, along with examples and corrections of each kind of error.

1. Comma splices

What is a comma splice?

A comma splice is the misuse of a comma, rather than a semicolon, colon, or period, to separate related main clauses not joined by a conjunction.

Comma splice examples

Example 1

"I do my homework with music playing, classic rock is my first choice."

How to fix this comma splice

Add a coordinating conjunction:

"I do my homework with music playing, and classic rock is my first choice."

Add a subordinate conjunction:

"When I do my homework with music playing, classic rock is my first choice."

Separate the two thoughts into different sentences:

"I do my homework with music playing. Classic rock is my first choice."

Example 2

"We went to the pool, it was too cold to swim."

How to fix this comma splice

Add a coordinating conjunction:

"We went to the pool, but it was too cold to swim."

Add a subordinate conjunction:

"Although we went to the pool, it was too cold to swim."

Separate the two thoughts into different sentences:

"We went to the pool. It was too cold to swim."

Example 3: Historical Edition

"I came, I saw, I conquered." Julius Caesar

How to fix this comma splice

Add a coordinating conjunction:

"I came and I saw and I conquered."

Add a subordinate conjunction and a coordinating conjunction:

"When I came. I saw and I conquered."

Separate the two thoughts into different sentences:

"I came. I saw. I conquered."

2. Run-on sentences

You may have seen "run-on sentence!" written on one of your papers in red ink by your teacher, but what exactly does that mean?

What is a run-on sentence?

A run-on sentence is one with a thought that carries over to the next line, especially without a syntactical break.

Run-on sentence examples

Example 1

"Jenny likes cats she has two a tabby and a tuxedo."

How to fix this run-on sentence

Add a coordinating conjunction and a colon to separate the different thoughts:

"Jenny likes cats, and she has two: a tabby and a tuxedo.

Example 2

"I went to the store, it was closed, so I came straight home."

How to fix this run-on sentence

Add a coordinating conjunction:

"I went to the store, but it was closed, so I came straight home.

Example 3: Historical Edition

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of the noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

How to fix this run-on sentence

When a run-on sentence is a masterpiece of literature, it's best to leave it as is.

3. Sentence fragments

Sentence fragments are on their way to becoming sentences, but they can't stand alone.

What is a sentence fragment?

A sentence fragment is a phrase or clause that is punctuated and capitalized as a sentence but does not constitute a complete grammatical sentence because it lacks an element, such as a subject or verb.

Sentence fragment examples

Example 1

"When I met up with my friends at the mall."

How to fix this sentence fragment

Since the fragment is a dependent clause, it does not make sense on its own. Add more information to complete the sentence.

"When I met up with my friends at the mall, they were all gossiping about a few classmates they'd seen in the food court."

Example 2

"At Stacy's house, right before Christmas."

How to fix this sentence fragment

This fragment is missing a subject and a verb. Add these elements to complete the sentence.

"At Stacy's house, right before Christmas, her uncle always dresses up like Santa for the neighborhood kids."

Example 3: Lyrical Edition

"Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain." Lyrics to "America the Beautiful"

How to fix this sentence fragment

Chalk this one up to poetic license.

Do you know any famous run-on sentences, fragments, or comma splices?

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