119-splice.jpg Comma Splice

A comma splice, arguably a type of run-on sentences, occurs when a writer connects two main clauses with only a comma rather than a conjunction, semicolon, or period/full stop. “A main clause makes a complete thought, so you should not find a wimpy comma struggling to join two such powerful clauses”(Robin L. Simmons).

The problem looks like this:
main clause + , + main clause.

Here is a simply example of a comma splice:

I got up late this morning, I didn’t have time for breakfast.

The first main clause in the sentence is I got up late this morning, and the second is I didn’t have time for breakfast. Notice that the two clauses have only a comma connecting them.
related topic: Sentence Fragment

l ContentISpliceCommascrop1.jpg
  • Prescriptive view
  • Acceptable uses
  • Fixing a comma splice
  • Related exercises
  • Reference
  • External links

l Prescriptive view

In The Elements of Style, a popular American English style guide by E.B. White and William Strunk, Jr., comma splices are condemned. The author wrote in the chapter of Elementary Rules of Usage that “place a comma before and or but introducing an independent clause” and “do not join independent clauses by a comma”1(Strunk, 1967).

In addition, Joanne Buckley pointed out in A Writing Reference for Canadians that comma splices often arise when writers use conjunctive adverbs to separate two independent clauses instead of using a coordinating conjunction. A coordinating conjunction is one of the following seven words: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. A conjunctive adverb is a word like furthermore, however, or moreover. A conjunctive adverb and a comma (or a conjunctive adverb between two commas) is not strong enough to separate two independent clauses and creates a comma splice. For example, “There is no admission fee, however you will be responsible for any food you order.” contains a comma splice with a conjunctive adverb2 (Buckley, 2003).

l Acceptable uses

Still, White and Strunk mentioned in the book that comma splices are sometimes acceptable. For example, when clauses are short and alike in form, such as:

The gate swung apart, the bridge fell, the portcullis was drawn up.

lFixing a comma splice 3

Here are four straightforward ways to solve the comma splice problem. Understand the subtle differences between them, and make sure you don't get into the habit of always solving your comma splice problems in the same way. Look at each comma splice in your writing as an opportunity to gain mastery over the tools for building complex sentences out of simpler ones.
Solution 1: Use a period.
The simplest way to fix a comma splice is to separate the two improperly joined sentences. Simply replace the comma with a period. The two sentences may sound a bit abrupt placed one after the other, but at least they will be grammatical:
· I completed my essay. I have not submitted it.
A period may be your best choice for fixing a comma splice when any of the following conditions holds: (1) the logical connection between the two independent clauses is self-evident; (2) one or both of the clauses is long; or (3) the ideas represented in the two clauses are distinct.
· I completed my English essay. Now I must go to the library and begin research at once on my fifteen-page History term paper.
Solution 2: Use a semi-colon.
(4the picture is taken from http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/punct/csfsro.html, where exist more examples.)

If you want a simple solution to the comma splice, but you prefer to encapsulate your two ideas in one sentence rather than two, then use a semi-colon rather than a period:
· I completed my essay; I have not submitted it.
A semi-colon is probably the most appropriate remedy for your comma splice when the following two conditions hold: (1) the logical connection between the two independent clauses is already clear, and (2) the ideas represented in the two clauses are very closely related. In particular, when the relation between the two clauses is one of sequence-either a sequence in time or a logical sequence-then a semi-colon is just what you need:
· I completed my English essay; next I will tackle my History essay. Solution 3: Use a coordinating conjunction.
Like the semi-colon, a conjunction allows you to combine your two ideas in a single sentence. But it has the added advantage of allowing you to indicate the logical relationship between the two ideas. In our comma splice example, the relationship is one of contrast: I completed the essay, but I haven't submitted it even though that would have been the expected thing to do.
The coordinating conjunction but compactly conveys this sense of the unexpected or contradictory:
· I completed my essay, but I have not submitted it.
In all, there are seven coordinating conjunctions: and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet
They cover the most basic kinds of logical relationships that can exist between two separate ideas.
Solution 4: Use a subordinating conjunction.
Subordinating conjunctions are similar to coordinating conjunctions in that they allow you to indicate the logical relationship between two independent clauses. However, unlike coordinating conjunctions, subordinating conjunctions lay unequal stress on the two parts of the new sentence. We can use the subordinating conjunction although to solve our comma splice problem, and we can do so in two distinct ways
· I completed my essay, although I have not submitted it.
· Although I completed my essay, I have not submitted it.
As the word subordinating suggests, we place less stress on the clause introduced by the subordinating conjunction. In the first example, the fact that I have not submitted the essay appears as an afterthought; in the second example, it is the point.
There are a great many subordinating conjunctions in the English language. Here are a few of the more common ones: while, although, because, if, since, unless, whether, when, why, as, before, after, if, whether, that, once (Jerry Plotnick, 2003).

l Related Exercises

question.jpgIf you want to take further exercises on the topic, you can click following link. It is the Online Writing Lab at D'Youville College. **http://depts.dyc.edu/learningcenter/owl/exercises/comma_splices_ex1.htm**
or http://www.uvu.edu/owl/infor/test_n_games/practice_tests/fragments.htm

l Reference

1. Strunk, William . (1967). The Elements of Style. New York: Plain Label Books.
2. Buckley, Joanne. (2003). Checkmate: A Writing Reference for Canadians. Toronto: Nelson Education Limited.
3. Plotnick, Jerry. (2003). Fixing Comma Splices. Retrieved from http://www.utoronto.ca/ucwriting/commasplice.html
4. http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/punct/csfsro.html
7.http://people.chu.edu.tw/~wswu/grammar/sentence_structure/comma_splice.htm (recommended, because it's in Chinese~)

l External links

1. **http://www.towson.edu/ows/modulecs_fs.htm**
This is the self-teaching section of the topic on the Towson University, and has vivid pictures that would enable us better experience the implications of some terms.

2. **http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/598/02/** This is the Purdue Online Writing Lab for comma splices.
3. **http://www.utoronto.ca/ucwriting/commasplice.html**
This is the University of Toronto site for resolution of comma splices and most of which have been cited above.