No one likes run-on sentences. Lots of students (myself included) like to pack as much into a sentence as possible. We use various conjunctions and comma splices until we run out of options. In a tutoring session, run-on sentences are easy to detect. When a student is reading her paper aloud and gets tripped up on her own words or is gasping for air—that’s when you know.
Oftentimes, run-on sentences occur when independent clauses are not properly joined. The clauses are either missing a conjunction or joined by a comma splice. A technique I have always used goes by the acronym “FANBOYS.” When a student has two independent clauses, I check to see if there is a FANBOYS conjunction connecting them. FANBOYS conjunctions are:
An example of how to use FANBOYS in a tutoring session:
Student writing: I chased my dog it got away OR I chased my dog, it got away.
Tutor: Ok, so what are the two different actions you’re explaining here?
Student: Chasing the dog and the dog getting away.
Tutor: Exactly. So when we have the two separate actions, we can’t fuse them without using any sort of connecting word.
Student: Not even a comma?
Tutor: No, not even a comma!
Student: Ok so should I just make it into two sentences?
Tutor: That works but we can also try to combine them using a conjunction. I’m going to give you an acronym: FANBOYS. Each letter stands for a different conjunction and let’s see if we can fit one in to connect the two phrases. FANBOYS stands for: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. Which conjunction do you think could work here?
Student: I feel like a bunch could…maybe but or so?
Tutor: Yeah, there’s never one answer—it depends on what you’re trying to say. So I think “but” works well here, but it always depends on the meaning.
While the example is a simple one, the run-on sentence problem is common (particularly trying to use comma splices). When I tutored students in high school, I found that this trick worked particularly well because the FANBOYS acronym is easy to remember and easy to use.