Dear Geist, The writing in Geist is known to be of a high calibre even though it contains an awful lot of run-on sentences. Is that because it’s okay to bend the rules in literary writing? —Monty Rose, Waterville NB Dear Monty, It is okay to bend the rules in most kinds of writing, depending on the rules and the writing. But we have a feeling you are asking about long sentences, not run-on sentences. A long sentence is grammatically correct and, well, long. Here’s one from Stephen Osborne’s dispatch “Insurgency” (Geist 96):
Her words seem (even today) surprisingly bloody-minded: “Here is your knife!” she says; “’Twill drink the life-blood of a soldier host. Go; rise and strike, no matter what the cost,” but otherwise, rather typically of its time, Victorian in both tone and diction (“I thought ’twas sheathed for aye”)—and yet although its subject matter can seem in 2015 to be exotic or even corny, the image of the Noble Savage so often found in Romantic poetry is here inverted or erased.
A run-on sentence is two sentences run together as one. An example: I spilled coffee on the customer, my boss got mad and fired me. The two should be connected with a conjunction (a joining word such as and or but) or with appropriate punctuation (such as a semicolon). And sometimes a run-on sentence is perfectly fine, especially if its components are short: I came, I saw, I conquered.