Avoiding Run-On Sentences in Academic Writing: A Guide

Academic writing is a complex and demanding task that requires a high level of precision and attention to detail. One of the biggest challenges that students face is writing clear and concise sentences that effectively convey their ideas. This is where the importance of avoiding run-on sentences becomes evident. A run-on sentence is a sentence that is too long and complex, making it difficult to follow and understand.

What Causes Run-On Sentences?

There are several reasons why run-on sentences can occur in academic writing. Some of the most common causes include:

  1. Lacking proper punctuation: A run-on sentence can occur when two independent clauses are joined together without proper punctuation, such as a comma or a semicolon.
  2. Using coordinating conjunctions: Coordinating conjunctions, such as “and” or “or”, can link two independent clauses together and create a run-on sentence.
  3. Overuse of complex constructions: Overusing complex constructions, such as relative clauses and dependent clauses, can lead to long and convoluted sentences that are difficult to follow.

How to Recognize Run-On Sentences

proofreadingRecognizing run-on sentences is the first step in avoiding them in your writing. Here are some signs to look for:

  1. Lack of proper punctuation: If two independent clauses are joined together without proper punctuation, this is a sign that you may have a run-on sentence.
  2. Difficulty following the thought: If you find it difficult to follow the thought in a sentence, this may indicate that you have a run-on sentence.
  3. Length: Run-on sentences are often longer than necessary, making it difficult to understand the idea being conveyed.

Strategies for Avoiding Run-On Sentences

There are several strategies that you can use to avoid run-on sentences in your writing:

  1. Use proper punctuation: One of the most effective ways to avoid run-on sentences is to use proper punctuation, such as commas, semicolons, or periods, to separate independent clauses.
  2. Break long sentences into shorter ones: Breaking long sentences into shorter, simpler sentences can help to make your writing clearer and more concise.
  3. Use dependent clauses: Dependent clauses are a great way to add complexity to your writing without making it difficult to follow. By using dependent clauses, you can create sentences that are clear and concise while still conveying complex ideas.
  4. Edit your writing: Editing your writing is one of the best ways to avoid run-on sentences. By going through your writing and revising it, you can identify and fix run-on sentences, as well as other mistakes, that may be detracting from the clarity of your writing.


Academic writing is a complex and demanding task that requires precision and attention to detail. Avoiding run-on sentences is an important aspect of academic writing, as it helps to make your writing clearer, more concise, and easier to follow. By understanding the causes of run-on sentences, recognizing them, and using strategies to avoid them, you’ll be well on your way to writing academic papers that are clear, concise, and effective.


  • Hacker, D. (2010). A writer’s reference (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.
Jenny Mark

Jenny Mark is a graduate of California State University of San Bernardino and lives in Southern California. She is a part time professor for Baker College, Southern New Hampshire University, Vista College, and Baker College. She teachs composition, creative writing, and essential college skills. Check out her blog at http://jennysuemark.com

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