Many English instructors (including me!) consider run-on sentences a capital offense. In my view, serious writers are supposed to be able to identify a sentence and end it with a period or a semicolon.
But there’s a lot of confusion about what a run-on sentence is. If you encounter a very long sentence, does that qualify as a run-on? I’ve had students randomly stick a period into the middle of a sentence on the grounds that a) it’s very long, b) it obviously needs a period somewhere. Nope!
So let’s clear this up. A very long sentence is…a very long sentence. It’s not a run-on and it’s not wrong, at least as far as grammar is concerned.
But cramming a bunch of facts into one endless sentence is not good writing. Below is an example from a recent newspaper article. In October 2018, Jake Patterson kidnapped 13-year-old Jayme Closs. She managed to escape three months later. Here’s the sentence:
Patterson pleaded guilty Wednesday to kidnapping 13-year-old Jayme Closs and killing her parents, in a move that spares the girl held in a remote cabin for three months from the possible trauma of having to testify at his trial.
Whew. There are five important pieces of information here:
- Patterson pleaded guilty to kidnapping on Wednesday
- His victim was a thirteen-year-old girl
- He also killed her parents
- She was held in a remote cabin for three months
- The guilty plea will spare her the possible trauma of having to testify at his trial
It’s not a run-on, and you can’t fix it with a period. Start over, and write several sentences instead of one.
Here’s a rule for you: one fact or idea per sentence, please. Your writing will be more readable that way. And there’s a bonus: your writing will be more emphatic. A fact or idea has more impact when in its own sentence.