Being a writer and editor can be exhausting. Not “I’ve just run the Boston marathon in two hours” exhausting, but “It’s 5 p.m. and I’ve lost the ability to form words” exhausting.
Nothing wears me down quicker than run-on sentences. Lately, it seems every document I’m asked to edit is overrun with run-ons.
Run-on sentences contain too many ideas and not enough punctuation. Not all long sentences are run-on sentences. It is perfectly acceptable to join several related ideas in one compound sentence, as long as the correct elements (commas, conjunctions, colons, or semicolons) are used. Run-on sentences exhaust readers, making it difficult for them to determine where one idea stops and another starts.
Unfortunately, run-on sentences are rampant in corporate writing. We spend countless hours breaking them up, but what if we didn’t have to break them up? What if the sentences were so well written, they worked as run-ons? After all, many great authors—including Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway—have used run-on sentences. William Faulkner once wrote an 1,800-word sentence. Victor Hugo wrote an 800-word sentence.
Below are some famous sentences from literature that are so well written that it doesn’t matter that they’re run-ons.