Run on Sentences and Comma Splices Part One

The most common error I mark on college or university papers is the comma splice. This error is using a comma when a period or semicolon is needed. It is an error. To be able to fix this error, we must be able to identify an independent clause. An independent clause has a subject and a verb and can stand on its own giving meaning. It makes sense. It could be a sentence. If there is more than one independent clause in a sentence, there must be a semicolon or a period separating them.  A run on sentence is where no punctuation is put between two independent clauses.  There must be a period or a semicolon between two independent clauses. For more information on identifying independent clauses please see last month’s blog about writing complete sentences.


Beside using fragments in the fast pace of everyday conversation, we also tend to run together several ideas or statements in a row. This verbal habit can sneak into our writing in the form of RUN-ON SENTENCES and COMMA SPLICES, which are, again, ungrammatical.

faulty: It’s a gorgeous day today, the sun is shining.

revised: It’s a gorgeous day today. The sun is shining.

faulty: Give me a chance I can do better.

revised: Give me a chance; I can do better.

You have already seen how fragments can interfere with the meaning of a sentence. RUN-ON sentences and COMMA SPLICES can cause similar problems of unclear meaning. While a fragment occurs when a sentence is broken apart, RUN-ONS and COMMA SPLICES develop when sentences are incorrectly fused or spliced together.


Each of the following is either a RUN-ON sentence or a COMMA SPLICE. Draw a line between the independent clauses (complete sentences). Cross out any incorrect commas.

1. I like rock music, I don’t like jazz.

2. The invitation was beautiful it was hand-lettered.

3. The pen is out of ink it needs a refill.

4. The movie was long, it lasted three hours.

5. Thanks for your comment, I do want your help.

Mark “OK” for a complete sentence, “RO” for a run-on sentence, or “CS” for a comma splice.

1. They were neighbours they were good friends.

2. A bad grade bothers me, don’t think it doesn’t.

3. She isn’t coming, she has no transportation.

4. Ann has wanted to buy the ring since she saw it in the

store window.

5. There were two seats left, we took them.

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