Stop the Run-On Sentence in Public Speaking

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While the spoken language is certainly less formal than the written language, the value of using good grammar when delivering your speech or presentation can be the difference between a successful performance and one that is less than stellar.

One of the most common mistakes I hear with younger speakers (and writers as well) is the use of the run-on sentence. What this means is that your sentences are connected to each other by the use of a conjunction, most notably the word and .

Example : The man was walking to the general store and he found the shivering dog limping by the side of the road and so he decided to take the dog with him and he trudged along carrying the emaciated mutt and then he finally reached the corner and he tied the dog to the post outside the store with a piece of rope he had found lying in the street and then he told him that he would be right back. [Do not laugh. I have heard something very similar from some of my students!]

The problems with the above sentence are several. By connecting all of your sentences with conjunctions, you have one incredibly long run-on sentence. A good English teacher would be quick to mark your sentence wrong; However, many of those younger than the baby boomers have had more attention placed on their science and math skills in school and less on their English abilities. This is a problem I have found primarily in American education.

Good speaking, as well as good writing, involves diversity in your sentence structure. While there is nothing wrong in using the word and to connect a sentence, connecting all of your sentences together is boring. Another problem with the above example is that all of the sentences begin with the subject and are followed by the verb. Certainly, not a problem if you are in the 3rd grade – a big problem, however, if you are becoming to become a successful public speaker or writer.

In the example below, notice the difference when you change the structure of the sentence and eliminate the excessive use of the conjunction and .

Example : On his walk to the general store, the old man found the shivering dog limping by the side of the road. He decided to take the poor animal with him. Trudging along, carrying the emaciated mutt, the man found a piece of rope lying in the street when he finally reached the corner. After tying the dog to the lamppost, he told him he would be right back.

While there is one and in the above paragraph, there are no longer 6. The use of conjunctions is part of good English. The use of excessive conjunctions is not.

Certainly, many of your sentences will open with your subject; however, both good speaking and writing skills involve variety. By beginning some of your sentences with prepositional phrases, subordinate clauses, participial phrases, and the like, your words will be much more interesting for your audience, especially important when you are using anecdotes in your material.

Variety is definitely the spice of life. Variety in public speaking can help make your delivery exciting. Stop the run-ons; improve your sentence structure; and, your audience will be most appreciative.