Business Writing Tip #152—Four Fixes for Run-on Sentences

In Tip #126 I talked about sentence fragments. Today I want to talk about another sentence problem—run-on sentences. The simplest way to describe these is to say that run-on sentences are sentences that need more punctuation or another word. In most cases they need to be more than one sentence, although in some instances the thoughts might be kept in the same sentence by adding something.  Run-on sentences are sometimes called fused sentences because they fuse multiple sentences together.

Here’s an example.

The committee met on Tuesday to discuss the budget it approved the budget.

This really needs to be two sentences, or to have something added to link the ideas together.

How to Fix Run-On Sentences

There are four ways to fix run-on sentences.

  1. Use a full stop and divide the sentence into two.
  • The committee met on Tuesday to discuss the budget. It approved the budget.
  1. Use a semi-colon to keep more of a link between the two thoughts.
  • The committee met on Tuesday to discuss the budget; it approved the budget.
  1. In some cases you can use a word (a coordinator).
  • The committee met on Tuesday to discuss the budget and it approved the budget.
  • The committee met on Tuesday to discuss the budget but it failed to approve the budget.
  1. And in some cases you can use a conjunction and a semi-colon (note in this example I had to alter the second sentence to make this work).
  • The committee met on Tuesday to discuss the budget; however, it did not approve the budget.

Happy writing.

four fixes for run on sentences

Business Writing Tip #151—Reflexive Pronouns

I love English. I even love grammar. I try not to be a pedant and I avoid insisting on archaic rules. But I do have a pet peeve.

I hate, hate, hate the misuse of the reflexive pronoun myself which is creeping into our language.books 1 (480x640)

Myself is a reflexive pronoun. The other reflexive pronouns are yourself, herself, himself, itself, oneself, ourselves, yourselves and themselves.

Here are some examples of misuse, followed by corrected examples with short explanations of why the original is wrong.

  • David Jones at the ABC and myself have been in full contact about this.

David Jones and I have been in full contact about this. (In this example the pronoun is part of a compound subject David Jones and I.)

  • Rose and myself are away for the day.

Rose and I are away for the day. (Another compound subject)

  • Tim Brown and myself have, I believe, been successful in setting up one or two areas of expertise in this area within the organisation over the past few years.

Tim Brown and I have, I believe, been successful in setting up one or two areas of expertise in this area within the organisation over the past few years. (You guessed it, it’s another compound subject.)

  • The correspondence between the company and myself was lengthy and complicated.

The correspondence between the company and me was lengthy and complicated. (This one is a compound object of the preposition between, so we need to use the object pronoun me.)

So how can we use myself and the other reflexive pronouns?

Now that I’ve shown you some examples of incorrect usage, let’s have a look at how we can use reflexive pronouns in English. Reflexive pronouns refer to a noun or pronoun that precedes it in the same clause.

  1. Use them when you are talking about actions where the subject and object are the same person.

He found himself outside of the conference room without any idea of what he was going to say.

The next time this printer jams, I’m going to order myself a new one.

  1. Use them for emphasis. In the words of Michael Swan, author of Practical English Usage, we use them to mean “that person/thing and nobody/nothing else”.

It’s quicker if you do it yourself.

The manager spoke to me herself.

The office itself is pleasant, but it’s a long way from the city centre.

  1. Use them instead of personal pronouns—sometimes. After as, like, but (for) and except (for) we can use them, but we don’t need to.

Everybody arrived early at the meeting, except myself. (or except me)

Happy writing. I’m taking myself off to read a good book now. 🙂

Business Writing Tip #150—Reducing Wordiness (Revisited)

Those of you who are regular readers may remember that I’ve discussed the issue of sense of stylewordiness in previous texts. I’m currently reading a fabulous book about writing style, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to English, by Steven Pinker. He refers to this issue and has a useful list of phrases with ‘leaner alternatives’.

Here’s his list:

make an appearance withappear with
is capable of beingcan be
is dedicated to providingprovides
in the event thatif
it is imperative that wewe must
brought about the organisation oforganised
significantly expedite the process ofspeed up
on a daily basisdaily
for the purpose ofto
in the matter ofabout
in view of the fact thatsince
owing to the fact thatbecause
relating to the subject ofregarding
have a facilitative impacthelp
were in great need ofneeded
at such time aswhen
Is is widely observed that xx

If you love English and want to know more about style, I recommend Pinker’s book.

Happy writing.

Business Writing Tip #149—More Proofreading Tips

I was surprised last week. So many people responded to Business Writing Tip #148 with its two proofreading tips. Many commented through LinkedIn, and some on my blog, to offer their own tips. I thought it might be useful if I put them all in one place.proofreading annotated

So here goes:

  • Whenever possible, print the document. As well as making it appear different, printing it out gives you a chance to escape from your computer and your eyes have a chance to take a rest from screen glare.
  • Check for spelling errors by starting at the end of the document and reading each word in backwards order. This stops you from thinking about the meaning and allows you to focus on the spelling of each word.
  • Pretend you’re in first grade and force yourself to read one word at a time. You can even try pointing at each word as you read it.
  • To check your grammar, read the document from start to finish focusing only on meaning and looking for common errors (e.g. confusion between there, their and they’re).
  • Read each sentence focusing on the punctuation.
  • Never rely on the spell check or grammar check.
  • Read the document out loud—this makes you read each word individually and will help you catch errors. It can also help you with punctuation and highlight if you have used enough sentence-length variety. Listen to the rhythm of your writing. You will also ‘hear’ if you have overused particular words.
  • For errors that you regularly make, compile a list of the most common word combinations using that word. Then create autocorrect entries with the correct version. For example if you type form instead of form, build a list that includes and changes:
    • away form to away from
    • form the to from the
    • question form to question from
    • help form to help from
    • go form to go from
  • Create a buddy system with a colleague—someone who will proofread your documents and whose documents you will proofread. A fresh pair of eyes can often see errors that we miss.
  •  Take a break. Walk away from your document for a couple of hours, or even a couple of days. You will look at it with fresh eyes when you seen it next time.

Thanks to the following people (in alphabetical order using first names) for these tips:

  • Amy M Figot
  • Carol Duhart
  • Eileen Behr
  • Fiona den Besten
  • Kate Barker
  • Kath Fowler
  • Kirsty Stuart
  • Penny Vosburg
  • Roxanna Short
  • Ruth Putnam
  • Sarah Ofer
  • Steven Walker
  • Sue France
  • Susan Nelson
  • Suzy Smith
  • Terrye
  • Wendy Kilbourne
  • Willy Duister