What is a comma splice?

Comma splice definition: A comma splice is a term for a grammatical error that occurs when two main clauses are joined with only a comma.

What is a Comma Splice?

A comma splice is a grammatical error and a misuse of the comma. It occurs when two main (or independent) clauses are incorrectly combined using only a comma.

Two independent clauses cannot be joined without a proper conjunction or without proper punctuation.

Comma Splice Examples

  • We went to the store, we bought apples.
    • This example has two independent clauses, one on each side of the comma. This sentence needs a comma with a conjunction or a semicolon to be grammatically correct.
  • The cat needs food, he is hungry.
    • Again, this example has two independent clauses. In order to be grammatically correct, this sentence needs to be split into two or a conjunction needs to be added.

A comma splice also creates a run-on sentence.

How to Fix a Comma Splice

What Is a Comma Splice?

  • Let’s use the above example to show how to fix comma splices.
  • How to Fix a Comma Splice Sentence:
  • There are three ways to fix a comma splice.
  1. Create two independent clauses.
    1. Incorrect: We went to the store, we bought apples.
    2. Correct: We went to the store. We bought apples.
  1. Change the comma to a semicolon.
    1. Incorrect: We went to the store, we bought apples.
    2. Correct: We went to the store; we bought apples.
  1. Leave the comma and add a conjunction.
    1. Incorrect: We went to the store, we bought apples.
    2. Correct: We went to the store, and we bought apples.
      1. This kind of conjunction is known as a coordination conjunction.

NOTE: Only use a semicolon if the sentences are of equal length and of equal importance.

Other Types of Run-Ons

What Is a Comma Splice?What is a run-on sentence? Run-on sentences are sentences in need of some grammatical correction. They contain more than one independent clause joined incorrectly.

1.) Comma Splice

As we have gone over in this article, a comma splice is one type of run-on sentence. Other errors can create run-on sentences, as well.

2.) Joining sentences with however, moreover, etc.

When joining main clauses with one of the above words, the clauses must be separated into two sentences or a semicolon must be used.

  • Incorrect: We went to the store, however, we could not find apples.
  • Correct: We went to the store; however, we could not find apples.
  • Correct: We went the store. However, we could not find apples.

3.) Fused Sentences

What is a fused sentence? A fused sentence is a sentence that contains two main clauses but lacks a punctuation mark or a conjunction to join them.

  • Incorrect: We went to the store we bought apples.
  • Correct: We went to the store; we bought apples.
  • Correct: We went the store, and we bought apples.
  • Correct: We went to the store. We bought apples.

How to Avoid Run-ons, Comma splices

What Is a Comma Splice?

Long sentences might actually be beautifully written. Sentences with subordinate clauses often lend themselves to lengthier structures. They are not run-on sentences because they have a dependent clause—they may even have more than one dependent clause. However, they only contain one independent clause.

In order to avoid grammatical errors such as run-on sentences (including comma splices), a writer first has to know how to properly punctuate complete sentences. This is easier said than done.

Foremost, a writer should not join two independent clauses unless he is sure he is doing so correctly.

Summary: What’s a Comma Splice?

Define comma splice: the definition of comma splice is two or more independent clauses joined solely by a comma.

In summary, a comma splice:

  • is incorrect grammar
  • a type of run-on sentence
  • must be corrected in professional writing

What is it with the comma splice?

What Is a Comma Splice?

  • Or is there a general decline in grammar today?
  • Either way, I’ve recently noticed a rise in basic grammatical mistakes, including the increasingly rampant comma splice.
  • And it’s starting to bug me, hence the reason for writing this post.

What is the comma splice?

First off, what exactly is a comma splice? It’s certainly not a well-known grammatical term, unless you’re studying/teaching English or a professional writer.

New Hart’s Rules – The Oxford Style Guide (the latest addition to my reference bookshelf) states that “a comma alone should not be used to join two main clauses, or those linked by adverbs or adverbial phrases such as nevertheless, therefore, and as a result. This error is called a comma splice.”

So it’s basically the incorrect use of a comma to join two independent clauses. These are ones that can stand alone as a complete sentence. A comma is simply not strong enough to splice them together. If you do, you end up with what are known as run-on sentences.

The comma splice in action

From novels to emails, websites to tweets, the comma splice is evident everywhere.

Here are a couple of real-life examples that I’ve come across in the past few days:

What Is a Comma Splice?
What Is a Comma Splice?

I even received an email recently from a magazine publisher (who should know better) consisting of seven or eight consecutive run-on sentences. I had to pause for breath halfway through!

How to avoid using the comma splice

You can avoid making a comma splice error in several different ways:

  • Use a full stop to split it into two full sentences
  • Replace the comma with a semi-colon or colon
  • Add a coordinating conjunction such as and, but or so after the comma
  • Add a subordinating conjunction, such as because, to make one clause subordinate to the other
  1. If we look back at the examples above, these could therefore be rewritten as follows:
  2. “Don’t get your tinsel in a tangle; we’re here to help.”
  3. “There’s a time and a place for Christmas jumpers, and that time is now”
  4. Another way around the problem is to use a gerund:
  5. “Cook over a medium heat, turning frequently until product is piping hot.”
  6. Or you could follow in the footsteps of a popular TV show and avoid a comma splice by using an ellipsis: “I’m A Celebrity
See also:  Do you use ‘on’ with days and dates?

Comma Splice

  • When you join two independent clauses with a comma and no conjunction, it’s called a comma splice. Some people consider this a type of run-on sentence, while other people think of it as a punctuation error.
  • Here’s an example of a comma splice: Koala bears are not actually bears, they are marsupials.
  • There are three ways to fix a comma splice. You can add a conjunction, change the comma to a semicolon, or make each independent clause its own sentence.

Here’s a tip:  Commas can be tricky, but they don’t have to trip you up. Grammarly’s writing assistant can help you make sure your punctuation, spelling, and grammar are tip-top on all your favorite websites. Try Grammarly for free.

  What Is a Comma Splice?

What Is a Comma Splice?

A comma splice is particular kind of comma mistake that happens when you use a comma to join two independent clauses. Here’s an example:

Koala bears are not actually bears, they are marsupials.

How can you tell that’s a comma splice? Look at the group of words before the comma.

Koala bears are not actually bears

Did you notice that this group of words can stand by itself as a complete sentence? That means it’s an independent clause.

Now look at the group of words after the comma.

This group of words can also stand by itself as a complete sentence. It’s another independent clause.

When you have two independent clauses, a comma is not strong enough to glue them together.

How to Fix a Comma Splice

There are three common ways to fix a comma splice. Let’s look at a new example:

I am not angry with you, I am not happy with you, either.

Fix #1: Add a Conjunction

One way to fix a comma splice is to add a conjunction immediately after the comma. With most comma splices, the conjunction you’ll want to add is probably and, but, or so.

I am not angry with you, but I am not happy with you, either.

Fix #2: Change the Comma to a Semicolon

Improve Your Writing

The comma splice is one of the most frequent mistakes made when using a comma. The comma splice occurs when a comma is used to connect two independent clauses.

In this example the two clauses make sense on their own. Connecting them with a comma is incorrect

Jim usually gets on with everybody, he is an understanding person.

.

Have a go at this question.

1 Tick the sentences showing the comma splice.

If you have two independent clauses that need to be separated, you have several choices:

You can make them into two sentences using a full stop. This is probably the easiest solution but may not be the best in terms of style or developing your argument.

Jim usually gets on with everybody. He is an understanding person.

You can use a semicolon. Semicolons should not be overused but can be very powerful when used in the correct situations. In our example, using a semi-colon suggests a link between the two clauses without stating that link specifically. This can be a powerful tool in developing a convincing argument.

Jim usually gets on with everybody; he is an understanding person.

You can introduce a conjunction to connect the sentences. By doing this, you make the connection between the two more explicit.

Jim usually gets on with everybody because he is an understanding person.

Jim usually gets on with everybody, as he is an understanding person.

Test your understanding of the comma splice with this exercise.

What is a comma splice?

A comma splice happens when a comma inappropriately links two independent clauses.

She’s an outstanding student, she’ll go far.

The comma here may well represent how people say the two clauses out loud. However, in any formal or academic writing, to use it is incorrect; it is a mistake that can make your writing seem careless or amateurish.

Why ‘splice’?

If you splice something together, you join two things that were originally separate. The comma splice splices together two clauses that are each complete in their own right.

Examples and solutions

  • [In response to an email ‘I’ll get back to you tomorrow’]
  • That’s absolutely fine, thanks for the holding email!
  • There are two main reasons for avoiding Greece in the summer, [comma splice] it can be extremely hot, and popular locations can be wildly overcrowded.
  • There are four ways of avoiding the comma splice:
  • (1) Make the two clauses into separate sentences:

That’s absolutely fine. Thanks for the holding email!

There are two main reasons for avoiding Greece in the summer. It can be extremely hot, and popular locations can be wildly overcrowded.

This solution generally works best when the two clauses are of a certain length. As two sentences, the first example sounds a bit terse or even brusque. Making the second example two separate sentences weakens the obvious link between them.

  1. (2) Use a conjunction such as and or but, or as, because, so, if there is a causal connection.
  2. This works well when the meaning of the second clause only loosely relates to the first:
  3. That’s absolutely fine and thanks for the holding email!
  4. For our second example, it doesn’t work very well, since what follows the first comma is not the cause of what is said in the first clause.
  5. X There are two main reasons for avoiding Greece in the summer, because it can be extremely hot, and popular locations can be wildly overcrowded.
  6. (3) Use a semicolon (;)
  7. It links these two clauses elegantly and simply:
  8. That’s absolutely fine; thanks for the holding email!
  9. One of the main functions of the semicolon is to divide two closely related clauses that balance each other (often each contains a finite verb). So, the second example could be re-punctuated as:
  10. There are two main reasons for avoiding Greece in the summer; it can be extremely hot, and popular locations can be wildly overcrowded.
  11. (4) Use a colon (:)
  12. One of the colon’s principal functions is to present the part of the sentence following it as an explanation, expansion, or result of what comes before it. It works very nicely for our second example:
  13. There are two main reasons for avoiding Greece in the summer: it can be extremely hot, and popular locations can be wildly overcrowded.
See also:  Appositives

Test yourself

Which of these sentences contains a comma splice?

  1. After I finished my breakfast, I decided to go for a stroll.
  2. I love avocados, they’re my favourite starter.
  3. I couldn’t afford the model of car I really wanted, so I bought the next one down in the range.
  4. Oxford can get bitterly cold in winter, it surprises some people.

Comma Splice Examples

A comma splice is a common grammatical error in English. Writers most often make this mistake when they are trying to “write by ear.” It's a common idea that a comma indicates a pause where a reader or speaker should take a breath, but simply adding commas when you feel a break is needed is not a reliable way to make sure you're punctuating your sentences correctly.

A comma splice is when two independent clauses are incorrectly joined by a comma to make one sentence. To avoid comma splices, you first need to be able to identify an independent clause.

An independent clause is a complete sentence that can stand on its own grammatically. To be a complete sentence, the clause must have both a subject and a verb. For example:

I went to the mall.

This is an independent clause because it has both a subject (“I”) and a verb (“went”). This forms a complete sentence.

Not all clauses with a subject and a verb can stand alone, however. A dependent clause often begins with a word that is meant to connect it to another sentence and cannot stand alone as a complete sentence. For example:

When I went to the mall

Because “when” is added to the clause, it is no longer a complete sentence on its own. This dependent clause would need to be connected to another clause to make it a complete sentence.

It is incorrect to join two independent clauses with a comma. This error is called a comma splice. For example:

I went to the mall, Jane was there.

“I went to the mall” is an independent clause that can stand alone as its own sentence. “Jane was there” is also an independent clause. It is grammatically incorrect to link these two sentences with a comma.

There are three ways to fix a comma splice. First, you can split the part before the comma and the part after the comma into two complete sentences with a period (you could also use a semi-colon for a less defined split). Here's how to fix our example from above:

I went to the mall. Jane was there.

  • Second, you can join two independent clauses by adding a coordinating conjunction such as “and” after the comma. For example:
  • I went to the mall, and Jane was there.
  • Finally, you can change one of the independent clauses to a dependent clause by adding a subordinating conjunction. For example:
  • When I went to the mall, Jane was there.
  • I went to the mall because Jane was there.

Note that if your dependent clause comes first, you must use a comma to join the two clauses. If your dependent clause is second, no comma is required.

Examples of Comma Splices and Corrections

Check your understanding of comma splices by studying the examples and corrections below.

Correcting by Making Two Sentences

Error Correction
I love going to the movies, it's so fun. I love going to the movies. It's so fun.
She took the boy's cookies away, that was mean. She took the boy's cookies away. That was mean.
The teacher was angry, the students were too loud. The teacher was angry. The students were too loud.
I think he's in love, he acts so weird now. I think he's in love. He acts so weird now.
She was sad when the cat ran away, she doesn't want to get a new one. She was sad when the cat ran away. She doesn't want to get a new one.
We went to the store, we bought milk. We went the to the store. We bought milk.
I often walk the dogs on the beach, they love splashing in the waves. I often walk the dogs on the beach. They love splashing in the waves.
I can't wait to go on vacation, it will be hot and sunny. I can't wait to go on vacation. It will be hot and sunny.

Correcting by Using Coordinating Conjunctions

Error Correction
I love going to the movies, it's so fun. I love going to the movies, for it's so fun.
She took the boy's cookies away, that was mean. She took the boy's cookies away and that was mean.
The teacher was angry, the students were too loud. The teacher was angry, for the students were too loud.
I think he's in love, he acts so weird now. I think he's in love, for he acts so weird now.
She was sad when the cat ran away, she doesn't want to get a new one. She was sad when the cat ran away, but she doesn't want to get a new one.
We went to the store, we bought milk. We went the to the store and we bought milk.
I often walk the dogs on the beach, they love splashing in the waves. I often walk the dogs on the beach, for they love splashing in the waves.
I can't wait to go on vacation, it will be hot and sunny. I can't wait to go on vacation, for it will be hot and sunny.
See also:  Always, never, usually, often, most, and more

Correcting by Creating a Dependent Clause

Error Correction
I love going to the movies, it's so fun. I love going to the movies because it's so fun.
She took the boy's cookies away, that was mean. When she took the boy's cookies away, that was mean.
The teacher was angry, the students were too loud. The teacher was angry because the students were too loud.
I think he's in love, he acts so weird now. I think he's in love because he acts so weird now.
She was sad when the cat ran away, she doesn't want to get a new one. Even though she was sad when the cat ran away, she doesn't want to get a new one.
We went to the store, we bought milk. We went the to the store where we bought milk.
I often walk the dogs on the beach, they love splashing in the waves. I often walk the dogs on the beach since they love splashing in the waves.
I can't wait to go on vacation, it will be hot and sunny. I can't wait to go on vacation as it will be hot and sunny.

Strong Sentences

Once you get used to asking yourself if the two parts of your sentence can stand alone as independent clauses, you'll be able to correct comma splices in your writing with ease.

To add interest to your written work, try varying the way you correct a comma splice so your sentences don't all sound the same.

When you master this trick, your English grammar will automatically improve.

Run-on Sentences, Comma Splices

If your computer is equipped with PowerPoint, click on the PowerPoint icon to the right for a brief PowerPoint presentation on Run-on Sentences. Click HERE to review Sentence Fragments. Click HERE for help with Powerpoint.

A RUN-ON SENTENCE (sometimes called a “fused sentence”) has at least two parts, either one of which can stand by itself (in other words, two independent clauses), but the two parts have been smooshed together instead of being properly connected.

Review, also, the section which describes Things That Can Happen Between Two Independent Clauses.

It is important to realize that the length of a sentence really has nothing to do with whether a sentence is a run-on or not; being a run-on is a structural flaw that can plague even a very short sentence:

The sun is high, put on some sunblock.

An extremely long sentence, on the other hand, might be a “run-off-at-the-mouth” sentence, but it can be otherwise sound, structurally. Click here to see a 239-word sentence that is a perfectly fine sentence (structurally)

When two independent clauses are connected by only a comma, they constitute a run-on sentence that is called a comma-splice. The example just above (about the sunscreen) is a comma-splice. When you use a comma to connect two independent clauses, it must be accompanied by a little conjunction (and, but, for, nor, yet, or, so).

The sun is high, so put on some sunscreen.

Run-on sentences happen typically under the following circumstances*:

Comma Splice

I decided to write about comma splices because my friend Scott Sigler has a book coming out this week, Ancestor, published by Crown. Over three years ago, when he was publishing an earlier version of the book with a smaller publisher, he asked me to read it for him and be as brutal as possible with my comments. The biggest problem I found was comma splices.

How to Use Commas

Commas are tricky because there are so many different ways you can use them, but one of the most common ways to use commas is to separate two main clauses that are connected by a coordinating conjunction. That just means that when you join two things that could be sentences on their own with a word such as “and,” “but,” or “or,” you need a comma before the conjunction:

Squiggly ran to the forest, and Aardvark chased the peeves.

Squiggly ran to the forest is a complete sentence, and Aardvark chased the peeves is also a complete sentence. To join them with a comma, you need the word “and” or some other coordinating conjunction. If you just put a comma between them, that's an error called a comma splice or a comma fault:

Squiggly ran to the forest, Aardvark chased the peeves. (wrong)

What Is a Comma Splice?

  • Comma splices seem to be Scott Sigler's biggest problem. Here's an example from page 114 of the original Ancestor book, where one of the characters is talking about a cow named Fonzie:
  • Sara obviously named that one, she was a sucker for those old “Happy Days” reruns. (wrong)
  • It's easy to see in that example why the error is called a comma splice: it's because the comma is used to splice together two complete sentences when that isn't the function of a comma.
  • Commas aren't meant to join main clauses all by themselves; to force them into that role is to perpetrate a comma splice.

The good news is that it's easy to fix a comma splice once you're aware of the problem. Because the two clauses are complete sentences, you can treat them that way and use a period where you had a comma.

Sara obviously named that one. She was a sucker for those old “Happy Days” reruns.

It's a period's job to separate complete sentences.

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