In 2010 one of the most common, surprising errors I saw in people's writing was run-on sentences made up of two short sentences. Here are examples:
- Thanks for your help, it's exactly what I needed.
- I will see you on Friday, I'm looking forward to lunch.
- These examples are great, thanks for sending them.
- My interview is tomorrow, we'll see how it goes.
Each of those items is two sentences. Each item is incorrect according to all style guides.
Why do intelligent people make the error? I think people worry that they will come across too informally or too plainly if they use such short sentences. They believe using 4-to-6-word sentences, especially two of them in a row, can't be professional.
But two short, crisp, clear sentences in a row are professional and punchy.
Some people call the error a "comma splice," since the sentences are spliced incorrectly, using a comma. To correct the errors, replace each comma with a period (full stop). Or for a breezy tone, use a dash, like this:
- Thanks for your help–it's exactly what I needed.
- These examples are great–thanks for sending them.
- My interview is tomorrow–we'll see how it goes.
This example works better with a period than a dash:
- I will see you on Friday. I'm looking forward to lunch.
The two sentences above don't have the same connection the other examples have. It would be more powerful to write the sentence below if it communicates accurately:
- I am looking forward to lunch on Friday.
You can also use a semicolon to connect the two sentences, but I do not recommend it for the examples above. Semicolons should be used sparingly to link closely related sentences, often with words such as nevertheless and however. Read my post "In Defense of Semicolons" for examples.
Here is what I hope you do: Avoid the comma splice, it's a real error.
Did you catch the error I just made?