Archive for June 2013

Correcting Comma Splice Errors

June 4, 2013

Avoiding Comma Splices

Did you receive your paper with a comment Comma Splice on it and wonder how to correct it?

Definition: A comma splice is using a comma where actually a period or semi colon should be used. It is an error. It is using a comma in between two independent clauses.

Although this is really simple in principle, this is really the most common error that I see on student papers.

Example: The sky is blue, the sun is shining. (Incorrect)

This is a comma splice. There are two independent clauses here.

“The sky is blue” is a complete sentence and “The sun is shining” is a complete sentence.

You can NOT use a comma in between two independent clauses (complete sentences).

Independent Clause – An independent clause has a subject and a verb and makes sense – can stand alone as a sentence.

Dependent Clause – A dependent clause is only part of a sentence. It has a subject and a verb but it starts with one of these words (subordinating conjunctions):

 if, because, when, since,

before, after, until, which, as,

as if, as soon as, although, though,

unless, who, which, whom,

whose, what, that…

For instance this is an independent clause: “The boy ran in the race.”

If we add one of these words (above) it makes it a dependent clause (a complete sentence).

“If the boy ran in the race…” It no longer is a sentence.

Now you must add an independent clause to make it a complete sentence.

Example: “If the boy ran in the race, he knew he would win.” We added an independent clause and it now makes sense. A sentence can have more than one independent clause but it must have at least one. A sentence cannot be joined to another sentence by a comma.

We cannot put “The boy ran in the race” and “He knew he would win.” Together with a comma.

“The boy ran in the race, he knew he would win.” (Incorrect). This is a comma splice error.

It is easy to fix. If the two sentences are closely related, use a semicolon between them.

Example: “The boy ran in the race; he knew he would win.”

It would also be correct to put this:

“The boy ran in the race. He knew he would win.”

Practice: Correct Comma Splice Errors

1. I like rock climbing, I don’t like walking on trails.

2. The sunset was beautiful, it was bursting with colour.

3. The teacher is effective, the students are learning.

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

5. He is going to dance, she is going to sing.

SEE BELOW FOR ANSWERS

1. I like rock climbing [. or ;] I don’t like walking on trails.

2. The sunset was beautiful [. Or ;] it was bursting with colour.

3. The teacher is effective [. Or ;] the students are learning.

4. The exam was long [. or ;]    it lasted three hours.

5. He is going to dance [. or ;] she is going to sing .

For more information on when to use a semi colon and when to use a period, please see punctuation rules.