Being a Better Writer: Sentence Construction and “Run-ons”

Sentence construction is one of those touchy things with a lot of novice writers. Personally, I blame the education system for not doing an adequate job explaining things, but the truth of the matter is that there are a lot of young writers out there (or worse, novice critics) who pass judgement on their own or others work without knowing much about what they’re actually passing judgement on. In the best case scenario, this leads to confusing feedback. In the worst-case scenario? Bad feedback, the kind that can harm a young writer and actually make them worse at their chosen craft.

And do you know what the worst part is? A lot of the time, those novice critics don’t know they’re wrong because they’re technically correct.

Again, this, I think, goes back to a failing of the education system, but a lot of these problems stem from the inability, disinterest in, or just general failing of schools to educate on the differences between formal and informal writing. Many students graduate high school in the US with, as far as I can tell, little to no understanding of the differences between the two types of literature.

Worse, a lot of schools love to give out things that aren’t actually true, such as in the case of “I before E except after C.” It’s a cute saying … but it’s 100% wrong. Not that this has stopped educators from using it … in fact I could recall teachers at my own high school using it right through high school, giving it out as common advice.

That’s not the only thing they get wrong, either. Which is why today’s topic is what it is. You may have been wondering why I started off with such a bashing of the public education system, and it’s because we’re going to see a theme in that vein through the entirety of today’s post.

Because simply put, when it comes to sentence construction in stories, a lot of people get a lot of things wrong thanks to that lackluster education. They hobble themselves, cripple their own story based off a misapplied teaching. Or they cripple others stories, acting as authorities on the internet or in reviews and criticize something that is actually correct as being incorrect (this, FYI, is why you should always take random internet book reviews that claim to find a number of grammatical errors in the text with a grain of salt; a lot of people don’t actually know what they’re talking about, and will incorrectly label correct English incorrect).

For example, one of the first—and more common, especially in some circles—things you’ll hear online when looking for writing critiques is discussion of the dreaded “run-on sentence.”

Continue reading