What is a Comma Splice, and How to Fix One

Comma Splice Defined

A comma splice is when two independent clauses (sentences) are combined with only the use of a comma.

Examples:

  • My sister sat in the vehicle, I went inside to see if anyone wanted to come with us.
  • The dog is tired from running around the dog park, we have an hour left before we can go home.
  • The thing I like most about the winter is wearing sweaters, they are so cozy I wear them all the time.

These are, of course, simple statements. As you can see, each part of these sentences could stand on its own. This is equally true for more complex sentences.

The Fix

There are three standard fixes for a comma splice.

  • Remove the comma and add a period.
  • Leave the comma and add a conjunction.
  • Replace the comma with a semi-colon.

Using a Period

  • My sister sat in the vehicle. I went inside to see if anyone wanted to come with us.
  • The dog is tired from running around the dog park. We have an hour left before we can go home.
  • The thing I like most about the winter is wearing sweaters. They are so cozy I wear them all the time.

Adding a Conjunction

  • My sister sat in the vehicle, and I went inside to see if anyone wanted to come with us.
  • The dog is tired from running around the dog park, but we have an hour before we can go home.
  • The thing I like most about the winter is wearing sweaters, because they are so cozy, I wear them all the time.

Replacing with a Semi-colon

  • My sister sat in the vehicle; I went inside to see if anyone wanted to come with us.
  • The dog is tired from running around the dog park; we have an hour before we can go home.
  • The thing I like most about the winter is wearing sweaters; they are so cozy I wear them all the time.

When is a Comma Splice Okay?

In formal writing, comma splices should always be avoided. Types of formal writing would include a medical journal, doctoral thesis, high school English paper, newspaper, or magazine.

However, in informal writing, a comma splice can be appropriate in certain cases.

For example, in fiction, a comma splice can convey racing speech or thoughts. “He never does anything I want, he just sits there, why won’t he move?”

It can be used (sparingly) to emphasize a statement. “He came, he saw, he conquered.”

It can also be used in poetry to assist in pacing. “Clouds roll in, a brisk wind blows, a snowflake falls right on his nose!” (From Construction Site on Christmas Night by Sherri Dusky)

Finally, as an editor, I see comma splices used by authors as their style, their voice. Their narration is flush with comma splices. It is used to convey a character in a particular way. That’s the way they like it and that’s okay.

That’s it! Once you know what as comma splices are and how to correct you can either avoid them in your formal writing, or correctly use them in your informal writing.

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