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I am currently spending some of my time as a blogger, I usually review each post several times before publishing it, although I (feel I) work really hard there were some comments in reddit about one blog post claiming that one of my articles is nearly unreadable, I think it has to do with "run-on sentences", I am willing to accept there may be some mistakes in it but not that much to say it can not be read, what they are refering for exactly and why did they claim it is unreadable? (it is almost as if they said unworthy).

This is just a paragraph I picked up from that post, can you tell me where are the "run-on sentences" and tell me if it is understandable?

"Someone once said this.

"I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think", Steve Jobs.

Let us say you have learned some basics and principles about computer programming and you want to make a program to solve a specific problem, in order to make that program you have to solve the problem and then start writing the code, so what is making you think "solving the problem" or "writing the code"?, programming itself does not teach you how to think, it forces you to solve the problem (which is going to teach you how to think) before doing anything else due to the reasons explained above, if not I challenge you to do it otherwise."

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closed as off topic by Kris, Matt Эллен, Hellion, tchrist, Kristina Lopez Jun 25 '13 at 17:42

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A run-on sentence is where a comma joins two sentences which would be better separated by a full stop (or a proper conjunction). Your question here is one sentence, too, and every comma might usefully be a full-stop. –  Andrew Leach Jun 23 '13 at 17:31
    
@AndrewLeach but my point is; is it true that "run-on sentences" is making this article unreadable?, is not that an exaggeration?. –  mechdeveloper Jun 23 '13 at 17:34
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It's certainly no exaggeration to say that both the article and the question here are difficult to understand because of the lack of internal structure which sentences provide. –  Andrew Leach Jun 23 '13 at 17:43
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Run on sentences cripples Bank of English. –  Edwin Ashworth Jun 23 '13 at 18:35
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You wanted to know why you've been downvoted after all you've only come here to learn which is fine, but you should know that StackExchange sites expect you do some basic research first and you've come here asking what a run-on sentence is while there are plenty of web resources available to answer that question like WiseGeek and GrammarGirl but no mention of such research can be found in your question making it vulnerable from downvotes from those expecting a better effort. –  J.R. Jun 23 '13 at 18:57

4 Answers 4

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The comma is used only to separate clauses, parts of sentences which cannot stand alone.

That sentence is a good use of a comma, this sentence is a bad use.

The reason the second sentence is bad is because both halves are complete sentences: it's a run-on sentence. Generally a run-on sentence can always be fixed by replacing the comma with a full-stop, but it's often better to use a conjunction [like but here]. It's also possible to link ideas by varied punctuation, as in the first sentence of this paragraph where I use a colon.

As a general rule (to which there are almost certainly exceptions), if there is a main verb on both sides of a comma, it should not be a comma.

Your paragraph might be improved like the following example, among lots of other possibilities.

Let us say you have learned some basics and principles about computer programming and you want to make a program to solve a specific problem. In order to make that program you have to solve the problem and then start writing the code, so what is making you think "solving the problem" or "writing the code"? Programming itself does not teach you how to think: it forces you to solve the problem (which is going to teach you how to think) before doing anything else due to the reasons explained above. If not I challenge you to do it otherwise.

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I am sorry if I bother you somehow. I just wanted to learn what was happening. I think I am going to review all the articles because they have the same problem. anyway I really appreciate your effort on helping me. –  mechdeveloper Jun 23 '13 at 18:01
    
@mechdeveloper There's no bother: I hope that the whole collection of answers has explained what's needed and why. –  Andrew Leach Jun 23 '13 at 18:07

Both periods (full stops) and commas are used to break a written utterance into chunks for easier syntactic and semantic processing.

A comma indicates that the chunks it separates are syntactically related, while a period indicates that the chunks are syntactically distinct.

Consequently, when you employ 'comma splices', you set your reader to looking for syntactic relationships which are not present. This is fatiguing and in the end discouraging: after one or two such false clues, the reader decides your text is not worth the trouble it takes to read it and gives up. Whether or not the text is literally unreadable, it goes unread.

You, as the writer, have sole control of the text. It is up to you to make the text as intelligible as your subject permits. When you fail to do so—when by slovenly construction, imprecise diction or misleading punctuation you make the reader do your job for you, tease out what the devil it is you’re trying to say—the reader perceives this, quite rightly, as a deliberate discourtesy. “You don't feel your text is worth your taking the trouble to make reading it easy? Then I don't think your text is worth my taking the trouble to read it. Good-bye!”

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Thank you for addressing not just the syntactic but the social issue of imposition and rudeness. –  tchrist Jun 23 '13 at 18:03
    
@tchrist Not to mention the commercial issue! –  StoneyB Jun 23 '13 at 18:05
    
As I said it was not my intention to make my text unreadable. I just did not know it. next time I will be warned about it and do my best to make it enjoyable to read. –  mechdeveloper Jun 23 '13 at 18:07
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@mechdeveloper Writing is programming, for a very very complex processor. You have to learn the instruction set! :) –  StoneyB Jun 23 '13 at 18:10

A 'run-on sentence', as the comments indicate, is a piece of text which should be divided into sentences but is instead structured (or rather unstructured) as a single sentence. This is bad writing at best, and ungrammatical at worst. Your example paragraph is a perfect example of this, and it is both wrong and incomprehensible.

Anything beyond that is off-topic on this site, but I will add three thoughts. Asking people to put more effort into trying to read your work than you put into writing it is both rude and doomed to failure. If you made the effort to divide your thoughts into separate sentences the logic of your argument would be clearer, not least to you. And what would you think of a programmer who didn't bother with comments or even putting instructions in a sensible order because 'the code does what it was supposed to'?

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I am sorry. I did not want to be rude. I just did not know. I totally learned my mistake and why the downvotes. thanks anyway. –  mechdeveloper Jun 23 '13 at 18:21

You asked where you had gone wrong. Very well. Here then is the answer to your question. I’ve marked with <STOP> those places that should have a period or a semicolon, or perhaps some other connection involving a conjunction. These demarcate the full clauses that you have left dribble on from one sentence to the next without the customary orthographic signals of proper punctuation or courteous conjunctions.

I am currently spending some of my time as a blogger, <STOP> I usually review each post several times before publishing it, <STOP> although I (feel I) work really hard there were some comments in reddit about one blog post claiming that one of my articles is nearly unreadable, <STOP> I think it has to do with "run-on sentences", <STOP> I am willing to accept there may be some mistakes in it but not that much to say it can not be read, <STOP> what they are refering for exactly and why did they claim it is unreadable? (it is almost as if they said unworthy).

This is just a paragraph I picked up from that post, <STOP> can you tell me where are the "run-on sentences" and tell me if it is understandable?

Let us say you have learned some basics and principles about computer programming and you want to make a program to solve a specific problem, <STOP> in order to make that program you have to solve the problem and then start writing the code, <STOP> so what is making you think "solving the problem" or "writing the code"?, <STOP> programming itself does not teach you how to think, <STOP> it forces you to solve the problem (which is going to teach you how to think) before doing anything else due to the reasons explained above, <STOP> if not I challenge you to do it otherwise."

There are many other orthographic faults above, including incorrect capitalization. But the lack of structural stopping points via periods or semicolons is the most aggravating of all the problems.

This is not just in English that these rules apply, either. Your profile explica que eres venezolano; te aseguro que lo mismo que acabo de explicarte sobre el inglés escrito also applies to Spanish in the same measure.

Or to Portuguese, for that matter. Here, though, as a sort of exception that proves the rule, is an excerpt (in English translation, para que los demás aquí lo puedan leer) of José Saramago’s History of the Siege of Lisbon (História do Cerco de Lisboa), in which he employs a style very much like yours in the paragraphs from your posting that I have corrected above.

Raimundo ran his hand over his forehead for a second, then said, I used to dye my hair but no longer, white roots are not a pretty sight, forgive me, in time my hair will get back to its natural color, Mine has stopped being natural, because of you I went to the hairdresser today to have these venerable white hairs tinted, They were so few I wouldn't have thought it worth the bother, So you did notice, I looked at you closely enough, just as you must have looked at me and asked yourself how a man of my age could be without white hairs, No such questions entered my mind, it was obvious that you dyed your hair, who did you think you were deceiving, Probably only myself, Just as I’ve decided to start deceiving myself, It comes to the same thing, What do you mean by the same thing, Your reason for dyeing your hair, mine for no longer dyeing it, Explain yourself, I stopped dyeing my hair in order to be as I am, And what about me, why have I tinted my hair, To go on being as you are, Smart thinking, I can see that I’ll have to practice mental gymnastics daily in order to keep up with you, I’m no more intelligent than you are, simply older. Maria Sara smiled quietly, Irremovable evidence that clearly worries you, Not really, our age only matters in relation to that of others, I suspect I’m young in the eyes of someone who is seventy, but I’m in no doubt that a youth of twenty would consider me an old man. And in relation to me, how do you see yourself, Now that you’ve tinted the few white hairs that you possess and I’m allowing all of mine to show, I've become a man of seventy in the presence of a girl of twenty, You can’t count, there is only a difference of fifteen years between us, Then I must be thirty-five, They both laughed . . . .

See now how much that resembles your own writing? It is quite shocking to read for almost anyone.

Now, perhaps you have been reading postmodern magic realism novels written in this style. If so, they are not to be emulated in normal writing, if at all.

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