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raum's avatar

Is a run-on sentence more difficult to read?

Asked by raum (6859points) 4 weeks ago from iPhone

Is correcting a run-on sentence grammar policing? Or is it actually more difficult for the brain to process?

Personal experiences welcome. But mostly looking for actual research. Haven’t found any yet.

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15 Answers

SQUEEKY2's avatar

It sure bothers a lot of grammar police that patrol this site.

Demosthenes's avatar

Run-on sentences are more of a stylistic issue than a grammatical one. But I do think they are harder to read; why do you think Proust is so difficult?

gondwanalon's avatar

Run-on sentences bug me when they turn into run-on paragraphs. Ideas get jumbled around and that makes it hard to understand or follow what the writer is trying to say. It’s better to make sentences short rather than long and meandering.

My Niece is bad. Her sentences go on and on in never ending paragraphs. She looses me. I read for a while and wonder what is she trying to say in her lengthy and frequent fb rants. I have never tried to correct her. Never wrote anything negative to her. But I never responded to her whenever she went negative. I only responded when she wrote something positive (which rarely happened). Nevertheless she un-friended me.

Zaku's avatar

Is a run-on sentence more difficult to read?
– Often, yes. Depends on the type.

Is correcting a run-on sentence grammar policing?
– This is an unclear question if asked without context. In what situation? What do you mean by “grammar policing”? Is that a good or bad thing?

Or is it actually more difficult for the brain to process?
– Is what? A corrected sentence? Again, it depends entirely on the specific context. Generally, no, there’s always a clear way to write the message of a run-on sentence in a way that is not a run-on sentence. And there are many cases of unclear run-on sentences. there are also cases of run-on sentences that are only technically run-ons. And there are cases where corrections can be made clumsily to create something harder to follow.

Inspired_2write's avatar

It doesn’t have to be.

I read Outlander book series and the author Diana Gabildon sets a very descriptive scene for the reader,so much so that it is a perfect series to read.

She has sold billions of her book series internationally because of it.

Her books are made into a TV series and movies , so it is NOT a bad thing at all.

It all depends on the context of writing this way..and in her case descriptive dialogue works well.

raum's avatar

@SQUEEKY2 But does it bother them out of principle? Or is it actually harder to read?

@Demosthenes Yeah, I thought about that. But sentence structure nazi didn’t have the same cultural relevance. I like Proust, but I also think reading translations are always a bit awkward. I’m always second guessing whether something is lost in translation.

@gondwanalon Yes, I’m thinking about the ones that turn into whole paragraphs.

@Zaku Whoops. Should have written Or [are] run-on sentences actually more difficult for the brain to process? Guess it doesn’t have to be a run-on sentence to be a confusing sentence. Ha.

The merits of grammar policing is probably fodder for a different question. I’m more curious as to whether the motivation to correct is based on the desire to grammar police or the desire to increase readability. Is it actually harder to read? Or do people just want it to have sound sentence structure just on principle?

@Inspired_2write So in the right hands, it can be a good thing?

Inspired_2write's avatar

@raum

Correct.
More importantly the context of the story or narrative.
It depends on what the writer wants to convey.

With the Author Diana Gabaldon..she conveys the descriptive scenes which helps her readers“feel” the story and become part of it by observing like “a Fly on the wall”.

Her story covers timelines into the past,present,and future of her characters.

Zaku's avatar

Is it actually harder to read? Or do people just want it to have sound sentence structure just on principle?
It depends on the sentence.

* Some run-on sentences are completely fine, and even not ungrammatical. Generally it’s ok as long as there is a main clause and the others or subordinate. e.g:
If you knock first, you can go right in.

Or the structure makes sense to link them together:
George went to the store, he bought a cantaloupe, and he went to the post office.

Now in a writing class, they might or might not mark you down for that last one and want you to use semi-colons to prove that you get the point, but in that case it wouldn’t be any clearer.

* Some other run-on sentences would be completely fine, if the correct punctuation were used. In these cases, the correct punctuation is pretty much always an improvement and does make the sentence clearer, e.g.:

I love to write papers I would write one every day if I had the time.
->
I love to write papers. I would write one every day if I had the time.

* Some other run-on sentences need more work than that. People who write such are usually either in a rush (and they might know better and get annoyed to get a lecture), or have poor writing habits (in which case it might be more likely it will help (eventually) to point that out).

JLeslie's avatar

Not harder to read as long as you have commas in the places they need to be.

Zaku's avatar

Some run-ons with commas are unclear what the writer means, for example:

“I love going to the movies, it’s so fun.”

Do they mean they are going to the movies because it is so fun? Or are they just saying that it is so fun that they are going to the movies? Often people will write such a thing with one or the other in mind, without realizing that it’s not clear and that people could take that in two or more ways, and that if they used another word, or even just a period rather than comma, it would be more clear what they meant.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Being a native English speaker I can be more flexible and can understand the meaning of sentences that run on or are missing punctuation.
But if you want me to understand a foreign language I need sentences short and to the point.

In our Japanese office there was a Japanese engineer who would speak for what seemed like minutes to say one sentence. “The xyz needs to be abc but the zyx is also in the form of cba so… the hij needs.. and the…..” Finally he’d end the sentence with the usual endings: “ka” if it was a question, “desu” if it was a statement, “da” if it was definite , “deshou” if it was a possibility.
I’d be floored. By the time he got to the end the meaning was gone for me. One of the other Japanese told me not to worry about it. He said they can’t understand him either.
Short sentences are easier.

zenvelo's avatar

There is a huge difference between a run-on sentence and a very long sentence. In a run on sentence, two or more independent clauses are shoe-horned into one sentence as if it is one complete and concise statement.

Some excellent, well-respected writers have written some very long sentences. When I first read Last of the Mohicans I was amazed at J F Cooper’s ability to write a sentence that covered more than a page with a description of the idyllic landscape of the Berkshires. Thomas Hardy has written some long sentences that set the scene in Southwest England.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

It’s not difficult if what they’re trying to say is interesting.

raum's avatar

Not entirely related to a run-on sentence, but I did find this:

Flesch Kincaid Readability Test

206.835–1.015(total words/total sentences)-8

100–90: very easy (5th grade)
90–80: easy (6th)
80–70: fairly easy (7th)
70–60: easily understood (8th and 9th)
60–50: fairly difficult (10–12th grade)
50–30: difficult (college)
30–0: very difficult (college graduate)

Which seems to imply that readability increases as [total sentences] increases (while keeping [total words] constant). Not exactly surprising. But interesting to see in a formula.

ragingloli's avatar

No, but, yeah, but, no, but, yeah, but, no, but, yeah but I know because I’m not wasting police time because you know Micha? Well, she saw the whole thing, right, because she was bunking off school because she was gonna go down the wimbley and get off with Luke Griffiths, only she never because he’s been trying to grow a moustache but it just looks like pubes, so she got off with Luke Torbet instead, only don’t tell Bethany that because she’s fancied Luke Torbet ever since she flashed her fanny at him during Home Ec’.

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