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已有 5959 次阅读 2015-1-16 15:19 |系统分类:论文交流|关键词:学者

How to deal with run-on sentences



      What is a run-on sentence? In short, arun on sentence is a poorly constructed sentence that either ignores some rulesof grammar or tries to connect too many ideas into a single sentence.



This sentenceis an example of a poorly written run-on sentence, it lacks a connecting word.


      It should be written like this:



This sentenceis an example that is not a run-on sentence, because it has a connecting word.


      Run-on sentences do not have to be long.They simply are not well developed. Other run-on sentences simply connect toomany ideas into a single sentence. Such sentences are easy to find in thescientific literature.



      Why are run-on sentences a problem? Asnoted above, run-on sentences either have poor grammar or try to present toomany ideas. The reader becomes lost and cannot remember the ideas beingpresented. When many ideas are patched together into one long sentence, thiscan confuse the reader. The reader has to sort out many different ideas lumpedtogether as a single sentence.



Beforewe criticize writers for making long sentences, let’s discuss what makes a goodlong sentence. Writers are often taught that long sentences make better writingthan short sentences.



I will providesome examples. I will make those examples as I write. These sentences are anexample. My writing style is short and choppy. The example uses italics. Theyare also indented like this sentence so they stand out from the other text.


      In that in the example above, I have useda series of short and choppy sentences to propose several ideas. Now, how canthose ideas be constructed into a good, easily readable sentence.


Here I providea second example, again using italics and inset text that combines the sameideas into one longer sentence; this sample sentence is no longer choppy.


      In the last example, above, I had triedto show you a method that can be used to make good, long sentences. I have useda semicolon to make a longer sentence. Semicolons are used to combine tocomplete ideas (two complete sentences) into one long, but grammaticallycorrect, sentence.


     Conjunctions are also used to make longersentences by connecting two different ideas with words such as “and, or, for,but, so, however.” Scientific papers also use adverbs to connect ideas, such as“therefore, however, thus.” Rather than concentrate on grammar, I’d rather talkabout how these words are used and mis-used to make long sentences. Before wego farther, let’s take a look at an actual run-on sentence; some of the sample sentencesbelow have been modified to disguise the writer and topic, but came fromrecently edited research papers.

连词也可以用来使句子变得更长,比如使用“and,or, for, but, so, however”等词汇来连接不同的内容。科学论文也可以用副词来连接不同的内容,比如“therefore,however, thus”。与其纠结在语法上,我更愿意来谈谈这些词汇在长句中的正确使用和误用。在接下去讲之前,我们先来看看一句连写句。下面这个例子来自最近编辑的研究论文,但是为了去掉作者和课题信息,有些句子已经有所改动。


However, the methods used to collect specimens here had four disadvantages:first, the specimens were collected from local parks, so they were not representativeof other disturbed habitats; second, the sample sizes were not large enough toprovide representative plants of the species occurring in those parks, forexample, the numbers of sample sedge specimens was very limited including only14 specimens for all 30 sites represented;third, the amount of collection effort varied widely between sites, rangingfrom 11 to 156 specimens per site; fourth, the types of species were stronglybiased toward woody species, with an obvious neglect of many hard-to-identifygroups such as sedges mentioned above and an almost complete lack of bryophytes.


      This type of sentence structure is oftenseen in scientific papers. It contains an initial statement followed by aseries of ideas that are separated by commas. This can often be usedeffectively, but many authors try to stuff too many ideas into such longsentences. In addition, authors sometimes add extra words and ideas that addlittle to the meaning of the sentence. In this case, this form of writing canstill be used with fewer words, or the sentence can be broken into severalsentences. The following example breaks the above sentence into parts but stillcontains the main ideas within the original sentence.



However, the methods used to collect specimens here had four disadvantages.First, because the specimens were collected only from local parks, they failedto represent other disturbed habitats. Second, the sample sizes were inadequate.For example, sedge collecting was very limited including, with only 14specimens for all 30 sites represented. Third,the amount of collection effort varied too widely, ranging from 11 to 156specimens per site. Fourth, woody species were over-represented while manyhard-to-identify groups such as sedges and bryophytes were obviouslyunder-represented.


      What has changed? The number of wordsdropped from 117 to 85 without any loss in meaning. More importantly, long andwordy descriptions were eliminated. In particular, the second and fourth ideaswere shortened markedly. Here is another long, run-on sentence followed by ashortened version.



Eachsite was divided into five plots, we chose five twigs from each of 20 trees thatwere between 10 to 15 years old in each plot and collected fully developedneedles from branches near the tree crown and then needles were cut off and wrapped up use gauze while needles werecollected around midday and immediately frozen in liquid nitrogen, and storedat –80°C until analysis.


      That sentence definitely confuses the reader,starting by talking about five plots and ending in the freezer.  No wonder the reader gets lost. The sentence presentsseveral ideas: 1) each site had five plots, 2) samples were collected from 20trees in each plot, 3) twigs were collected from near the tree crown, 4) needlecollection was described, and 5) needle storage was described.

这句话肯定会使读者感到迷惑。以五块地开头,然后结尾时变成了冰箱,也就难怪读者会迷糊了。这句话表述了这么几个意思: 1)每个站点都有五块地,2)样本是从每块地中的20棵树上收集的,3)从靠近树冠的地方收集树枝,4)针叶收集方法的描述,5)针叶储存方法的描述。


      What is wrong with this example sentence?The first comma separates independent sentences. It should be a period. Then, along and complex process is described in one very long sentence. This should bebroken into a series of logical steps. In this case, “first, second, and third”could be used for each step (as is done in an earlier example), or other wordscan join the steps as is shown in the following example.

这个句子有什么问题呢?第一个逗号分隔的是两个独立的句子,所以应该是用句号。然后是用一个很长的句子描述一个长而复杂的过程。这应该被分成一系列符合逻辑的步骤。在这种情况下“first,second, and third ”可以用于每个步骤(就如前一个例句),或者如下面的例句一样用一些其它词将这些步骤连接起来:


First,each site was divided into five plots. We chose five twigs from each of 20trees that were between 10 to 15 years old in each plot. Then, fully developedneedles were from branches near the tree crown. The needles were cut off and wrapped up use gauze. This was done aroundmidday; needles were immediately frozen in liquid nitrogen and stored at –80°Cuntil analysis.


      Some journals will require that anysentence longer than three lines be broken into shorter sentences. While thisextreme is not always necessary, any time a sentence is longer than threelines, the author should ask him or herself the following questions. Does thissentence try to join too many ideas? Can I use a semicolon to separateindependent ideas? Have I used words that connect ideas, such as “therefore, inaddition, perhaps, however?”

一些期刊会要求将任何长于三行的句子分成短些的句子。虽然这有些极端,不见得总是有必要,但是当一句话长于三行时,作者都应该问自己以下这几个问题。是否在一句话中添加了太多内容?是否可以用分号来分隔相对独立的内容?是否用了像“therefore,in addition, perhaps, however”这样的词来连接句子?


      Lastly, I would like to end with a seriesof short examples of run-on sentences, each followed by a correct example and afew notes. The sentences describe themselves and provide examples.



错误:Incorrect:Use a conjunction to connect two sentences you will avoid creating a run-onsentence.

正确:Correct:Use a conjunction to connect two sentences and you will avoid creating a run-onsentence.



错误:Incorrect:For a series of ideas use a semicolon and number the ideas this can be done by usinga series of steps and use “and” before the last number.

正确:Correct:Several ideas follow: 1) a semicolon introduces a series of ideas, 2) numbersare added for emphasis, 3) ideas are presented using a series of steps, 4) eachidea is numbered, and 5) the word “and” is added before the last number.



错误:Incorrect:Use a semicolon to separate distinct ideas (independent clauses) this allowsyou to avoid having a run-on sentence.

正确:Correct:Use a semicolon to separate distinct ideas (independent clauses); this allowsyou to avoid having a run-on sentence.



错误:Incorrect:Avoid long and complex sentences that join too many ideas because this willconfuse the writer and it will also make your ideas very hard to follow becauseyou are trying to say too much in a single sentence and your reader will end upvery confused especially if you repeatedly use the word “and” so that the wholeidea gets lost as does your reader.

正确:Correct: Avoid long and complex sentences that join too manyideas because this will confuse the writer. It will also make your ideas veryhard to follow because you are trying to say too much in a single sentence.Your reader will end up very confused especially if you repeatedly use “and.”The whole idea gets lost as does your reader.



      Few writers use sentences that are tooshort. Much more commonly, long sentences connect too many ideas with the resultthat the reader loses their way and becomes confused. A writer should assumethe reader will easily become confused. It is better to make the mistake ofwriting sentences that are too simple rather than ones that are long, complex,and confusing.



      As while all writing, editing isimportant. Re-reading your own writing, especially if you read it to someoneelse, will always help you catch errors. The author of this article once hadsomeone bring a copy of something he had written to him. My co-worker asked,“What does this sentence mean?”



      I read the sentence, then I responded, “I know two things. First, I wrote it. Second, I have no idea what it means!”

我读了那句话,然后回答说:“我只知道: 第一,这句话是我写的;第二,我完全不知道它是什么意思!”





1 王晓文

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