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Comma Splice

How to fix one of the most common writing errors.

By
Mignon Fogarty,
June 24, 2010
Episode #228

Page 4 of 4

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Here are some other ways to fix a comma splice.

Make one of the main clauses a subordinating clause:

Squiggly ran, Aardvark hid. (wrong)
Because Squiggly ran, Aardvark hid. (right)

You can read more about subordinating conjunctions in Episode 221, 'Although' Versus 'While,' and the tip Can You Start a Sentence with "Because"?

Make one of the main clauses a phrase:

Aardvarks are the most noble nocturnal animal, they free us from ants. (wrong)
Aardvarks—the most noble nocturnal animal—free us from ants. (right)

There are rare specific cases where it is acceptable to join complete sentences using just a comma. Yes, I just said comma splices are allowed in some cases. For example, the authors of the grammar handbook Things Your Grammar Never Told You say it is acceptable to use commas to join very short sentences that are exactly parallel: I came, I saw, I conquered. Strunk & White give similar advice in The Elements of Style. Proceed with caution.

Exercises

Fix the comma splices in the following sentences. Use each of the following at least once: a semicolon, a coordinating conjunction, a period, and a subordinating conjunction.

1. Mix ginger and lime with water, it makes a tasty and refreshing drink.
2. I wonder where Herbert went, he should have been back by now.
3. Cooper swam 15 laps, he won't be able to do that again tomorrow.
4. We went to the store, we wanted to buy some chips.

Typewriter Comma Key image from Shutterstock

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