Punctuate to Communicate
These days, I find myself running into run-on sentences with greater frequency. Seems as though people are too impatient, or lazy, or just plain clueless, to stick a little punctuation into their communication, or to bother putting it in the right places. The phenomenon is everywhere on the Internet, where English standards often seem nonexistent, and pops up now and then in print media. One wonders whether the ubiquitous tweeting and texting, which are all about abbreviation, might be influencing this trend.
As William Bendix used to say on TV’s The Life of Riley, “What a revoltin’ development this is.” Okay, okay, so that was before your time. How unfortunate for you. (Dad-gummed young whippersnappers …)
Now where was I?
Oh, yes. What’s really revoltin’ is the run-on sentence’s prevalence among persons who pass themselves off as writers. You won’t believe it, but this is from an online book review: “Confusing areas did not take anything away from this amazing tale it actually enhanced the journey of finding/saving Rosa.”
Two for one
The key word here is “confusing,” because this alleged sentence couldn’t be more so. You have to read it over, then stop and think, before it sinks in that this is actually two sentences. Surely it was just plain laziness that kept the writer from inserting a period after “tale” and giving “it” a capital i. Or, said writer could merely have placed a semicolon after tale.
Here’s another book review from the Internet. This one has punctuation, but the wrong kind – and a couple of other problems, as well. “Bone Gap is definitely on my favorite reads this year, it has everything I love in good book; it’s mysterious, intriguing, heartbreaking and at times laugh out loud funny.”
First, does the reviewer mean to say that Bone Gap is “one of” his or her favorite reads? Or does the writer mean that the book is on his/her favorite “list of” reads. Then, the first independent clause ends with “year,” which should be followed with a period. It could be followed instead with a semicolon, but that would be awkward, because a semicolon ends the next clause, and things would become confusing. In that last clause, “laugh out loud” is a single modifier of “funny,” and the three words should be connected with hyphens: “laugh-out-loud funny.”
This example is a pitch for a book on a promotional site, and has several errors besides a run-on sentence needing punctuation in two places: “A story of abuse and bullying, told thru the eyes of the animals that were effected, and how they overcame. Helping each other they found the answer with the help of Miss Sparkle a Black cow with magical powers.”
Oh lordie. Did I say something about tweeting and texting? Here we have a disquisition on a book, and the expositor can’t even be bothered with spelling out the word “through.” Next, the word needed here is not “effected,” but “affected,” which means to produce an effect. Moving right along: Reading of the next sentence would be facilitated with a comma after the dependent clause, “Helping each other …” There is a pause after “Miss Sparkle,” which requires a comma; the meaning is “Miss Sparkle, which is a black cow,” but “which is” is understood. Thus, it should read, “Miss Sparkle, a black cow …” Note that “black” is an adjective, and there is no reason for capitalizing it.
More is less
Run-on sentences, as has been explained, often are in need of commas for clarification. And then there are the instances in which commas are wholly inappropriate, and their presence not only is unnecessary, but can alter the meaning. “Everybody, who was anybody, went to Elaine’s,” read a Palm Beach Post headline over a Liz Smith column. The commas imply that “Everybody” and “anybody” are one and the same. That’s not the intended meaning, which is that all persons of any importance visited Elaine’s.
Alas, Elaine’s is no more. What a revoltin’ development that is.