What is a “comma splice”?

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A comma splice occurs when a comma is used to join two independent clauses. W.W. Norton states, “When you use the comma to join or splice two distinct statements, you are probably trying to keep two related points together in one sentence. But the comma alone cannot do that for you.” This error is also called a “run-on” sentence and can be fixed several ways. The following sentence contains a comma splice:

They will be policemen, they will be doctors and nurses.

The easiest way to fix a comma splice is to make each independent clause its own sentence:

They will be policemen. They will be doctors and nurses.

However, in this case, two sentences is not a very elegant solution. Instead, a semicolon may be substituted for the comma:

They will be policemen; they will be doctors and nurses.

A semicolon’s only job is to join two independent clauses that relate to each other closely. These relate, but a semicolon may not be the best choice here, either. Another way to fix the above comma splice would be to use a coordinating conjunction after the comma:

They will be policemen, and they will be doctors and nurses.

Perhaps the best way to fix our splice is by removing the repeated “they will be,” thereby making the second clause dependent:

They will be policemen, doctors, and nurses.

Notice, too, the inclusion of the necessary comma after “doctors.” Now a comma splice has been made into a concise, grammatically correct sentence.

A comma cannot, by itself, connect two main clauses; the clauses must either form separate sentences or be joined by a coordinating conjunction.

Another way to fix a comma splice is to replace the comma with a co-ordinating conjunction such as ( and,but,or,for,yet,nor,or so).

The little girl went to the store, for she was going to grocerries for her mother.

You can replace the comma with a subordinating conjunction (after, although, before, unless, as, because, even though, if, since, until, when, while).

The baby was crying because she was hungry.

Replacing the comma with a semi-colon and transitional word like however, moreover, on the other hand, nevertheless, instead, also, therefore, consequently, otherwise, as a result).

The little girl went to the store; as a result,she needed to buy grocerries for her mother.

But as you see you can only use the semi-colon before the transitional word, and a comma after the transtitonal word.

A comma splice is the use of a comma to join two independent clauses and is considered a style error in most writing. However, Strunk, William, Jr. suggests that splices are sometimes acceptable when the clauses are short and alike in form, such as:

"Man proposes, God disposes."

                                 WORKS CITIED

Strunk, William, Jr. (1918). "Do not join independent clauses by a comma". The Elements of Style (1st ed.). Retrieved 2013 4 11.

W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. [[1]]

Buckley, Joanne. Fit to Print: The Canadian Student’s Guide to Essay Writing. Toronto: Harcourt Brace & Company, Canada, 1998.

The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995

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