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Sentence Combining Exercise: Ernie Munger's Run

An Advanced Exercise in Combining Sentences and Building Paragraphs


Sentence Combining Exercise: Ernie Munger's Run

Fat City by Leonard Gardner (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1969; reprinted by University of California Press, 1996)

Adapted from the last two paragraphs in chapter four of Fat City, a novel by Leonard Gardner, this combining exercise invites you to experiment with a variety of sentence structures, including absolute phrases. After reading the article What Is Sentence Combining? and completing some of the more basic exercises listed there, you should be ready to tackle this advanced exercise in sentence-combining and paragraph building.


This exercise has been adapted from two paragraphs in Fat City that describe the morning run of Ernie Munger, a boxer in training for a fight.

Combine the sentences in each set below into a single clear sentence, and arrange your sentences (sets 1-7 and 8-14) into two cohesive paragraphs. (Sentences that can be turned into absolutes are in italics.) After you have completed the exercise, compare your paragraphs with Leonard Gardner's original text on page two.

Keep in mind that many combinations are possible, and in some cases you may prefer your own sentences to the original versions.

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  1. He drove to the levee.
    The levee was beside the river channel.
    That's where freighters entered and left the port.
    That's where tug-towed barges entered and left the port.

  2. He was zipped up in his leather jacket.
    Each fist was squeezing a small rubber ball.
    He ran along the dirt road.
    He ran past burst mattresses, water heaters, fenders, sodden cartons, worn-out tires and rusty cans strewn down the steep bank.

  3. At the shore rocked bottles and driftwood.
    Blackened tules rocked at the shore.
    Papers and occasionally a reeking, belly-up fish rocked at the shore.

  4. Gulls turned in the gray sky.
    Gulls stood on piles across the channel.

  5. Ernie was opposite the warehouses.
    By this time he was hot and sweaty.

  6. His breathing was fixed to the plopping of his long black tennis shoes.
    He pounded past the port.

  7. Larks rose with flashes of yellow from the dead weeds and wild grass.
    The larks sailed ahead.
    The larks landed. The larks hushed and flew up once more.
    He came unflaggingly on.
    He was feeling he would never tire.

  8. The bank took a gradual turn.
    The bank turned where the channel forked off from the San Joaquin River.

  9. The oaks of Dad's Point stood ahead in the distance.
    Their trunks were painted white.

  10. His mouth was gaping.
    His damp hair was in his eyes.
    His body was like a fired-up furnace.
    Ernie held his stride opposite Rough and Ready Island.
    Rows of moth-balled ships were there.
    The ships were moored three abreast for the future.
    Their gun mountings were sealed in protective pods.

  11. He was gagging on a dry throat.
    He chose some object as his finish line.
    He plodded up to it on weighted legs.
    He plodded right on past.

  12. His head was back.
    His heaving chest was shot with pains.
    He strained on to a farther landmark.

  13. He did not quit there either.

  14. He fought on with himself to the edge of the park.
    He stumbled over the lawn past picnic tables and barbecue pits.
    He careened with flailing arms farther and farther under the trees.
    He did this until at last he stood gasping on the muddy bank of the point with nowhere else to run.
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