By Geraldine Woods

Some sentences are short. Some are long. Joining them is good. Combined sentences make a narrative more interesting. The choppiness of the preceding sentences makes a good case for gluing sentences together. Just be sure to do so legally, so you won’t end up with a run-on sentence.

Test writers sometimes throw improperly joined sentences at you to see whether you recognize this sort of error. Read this information carefully to ace those questions.

To join sentences correctly, you need one of the following:

  • A conjunction: A conjunction is a word that unites parts of a sentence. To connect two complete sentences more or less equally, use and, or, but, nor, and for. Be sure to put a comma before the conjunction. To highlight one thought and make the other less important, use such conjunctions as because, since, when, where, if, although, who, which, and that — among others. These conjunctions are sometimes preceded by commas and sometimes not.
  • A semicolon: A semicolon (a little dot over a comma) pops up between two complete sentences and glues them together nicely. The two complete thoughts need to be related in some way.

Some words look like conjunctions but aren’t. Don’t use nevertheless, consequently, therefore, however, or then to join complete thoughts. If you want to place one of these “false conjunctions” between two complete thoughts, add a semicolon and place a comma after the “false conjunction.” Also, most writers of formal English don’t use a dash (a long, straight, horizontal line) to link two complete sentences one after the other. A semicolon is better for that job. However, a single dash can tack words to the end of a complete sentence, so long as the addition is less than a complete sentence. Two dashes may also be used to tuck a complete sentence inside another complete sentence.

Practice questions

Which of the following are legally combined, correct sentences? You may find one, more than one, or none.

  1. Nevertheless, he did not criticize those who used the term, as long as they did so politely.
  2. Nevertheless, he did not criticize those who used the term; as long as they did so politely.
  3. Nevertheless, he did not criticize those who used the term, and as long as they did so politely.

Answers to practice questions

  1. The nevertheless in choice a is not used as a joiner, so it’s legal. In choice b, you see an unnecessary semicolon. In choice c, the and isn’t needed.