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  • Revising Comma Splices

    You create a comma splice when you join two independent clauses with a comma but without a conjunction. To be able to understand what that means it is important to understand what an independent clause is and what a conjunction is.

    An independent clause is a clause that has a subject and a verb and that expresses, a 'complete thought'. This means that an independent clause has a meaning on its own and does not need another clause to give it meaning. A simple example of an independent clause would be I sleep until nine, for instance. Here the subject is I, the verb is sleep, and the sentence expresses a complete thought because it is clear what is meant.

    Conjunctions are words that link other words, phrases or sentences together, like in this example:

    I like ice skating and field hockey, but I hate ice hockey.

    Here and and but are the conjunctions that link the words and phrases together. As mentioned before, a comma splice is created when two independent clauses are joint together with a comma but without a conjunction, like, for example and or but.

    The following is an example of how a comma splice is created starting with two independent clauses. The first independent clause is:

    Spiders are not considered insects.

    And the other one is:

    They are arachnids.

    When you join these two sentences together using just a comma - like in the example - you create a comma splice.

    Spiders are not considered insects, they are arachnids.

    There are three ways in which you can correct a comma splice. You can add a conjunction, you can change the comma into a semicolon or you can make separate sentences. So, let's take this sentence with a comma splice and rewrite it in these three different ways:

    So, we start with:

    He is not going to buy a house, he is planning to rent one.

    This sentence contains a comma splice.

    1.

    As mentioned, option number one is to simply add a conjunction. The sentence would then read like this:

    He is not going to buy a house, but he is planning to rent one.

    So, the comma is still there, but it is now followed by a conjunction.

    2.

    Option number two is at add a semicolon. Like here:

    He is not going to buy a house; he is planning to rent one.

    As you can see, nothing really changed apart from the fact that the comma has now been replaced with a semicolon. Note that if you decide to use a semicolon, make sure there is a close, logical connection between the two independent clauses. In this case the semicolon worked because both phrases are about ways get a house, for example, which is the logical connection.

    The third, and last, option is to divide the sentence containing the comma splice into two separate independent clauses. The sentence would then look like this:

    He is not going to buy a house. (Full stop, end of sentence), He is planning to rent one. (Starting a new sentence.)

    Finally, there are also a few instances in which comma splices are acceptable. The first one is when using question tags, like in:

    He is not here, is he?

    It is also okay to use comma splices in short parallel contradictions, so when both phrases that make up the contradiction have a similar grammatical structure. Like in:

    I'm not rich, I'm poor.

    Thirdly, comma splices are often used in fiction and poetry for the simple reason that in these types of informal writing the rules are a lot less strict. An example would be:

    I came, I saw, I conquered.