Comma Splices: What They Are and How to Avoid Them

What is comma splice?

Comma splices can make writing confusing and difficult to read. 

A comma splice is a common error in writing where two independent clauses are joined together with just a comma, without any conjunction or proper punctuation. 

For example: “I love pizza, it is my favorite food.” This sentence has two independent clauses, “I love pizza” and “it is my favorite food,” but they are joined together with just a comma. This is a comma splice. 

Where do comma splice commonly occur?

Comma splices can occur in a variety of contexts, which can make them difficult to spot. Here are common situations where they can occur

  • Between two independent clauses:An independent clause is a group of words that can stand alone as a sentence and express a complete thought.But when two clauses come together. This is the most common type of comma splice.
    For example:
    Incorrect: She loves to swim, she goes to the pool every day.
    Correct: She loves to swim, so she goes to the pool every day.
  • In a list: When a list of items is separated by commas, it can be easy to accidentally insert comma splice.
    For example:
    Incorrect: I need to buy apples, bananas, and oranges, the grocery store is closed.
    Correct: I need to buy apples, bananas, and oranges because the grocery store is closed.
  • After an introductory phrase or clause: If a sentence begins with an introductory phrase or clause, there should be a comma separating it from the main clause. However, some writers mistakenly use a comma splice instead of a proper conjunction.
    For example:
    Incorrect: After I finish this project, I will take a break, I’m tired.
    Correct: After I finish this project, I will take a break because I’m tired.
  • With transitional expressions: Transitional expressions like “however,” “therefore,” “meanwhile,” and “consequently” are often used to connect independent clauses. However, they should be preceded by a semicolon, not a comma.
    For example:
    Incorrect: She loves to swim, however, she is afraid of the ocean.
    Correct: She loves to swim; however, she is afraid of the ocean.
  • In dialogue: Sometimes characters in a story or dialogue may speak in incomplete sentences or use grammatically incorrect language.
    For example:
    Incorrect: “I don’t know, it’s too complicated,” he said, “I can’t explain it.”
    Correct: “I don’t know, it’s too complicated,” he said. “I can’t explain it.”

Comma splices can be tricky to spot because they may not always result in a grammatically incorrect sentence. In some cases, a comma splice may create a sentence that is technically correct, but it may not be clear or effective in conveying the intended meaning. For example: “I finished my project early, I rewarded myself with a trip to the movies.

In the example above, the comma splice creates a sentence that is technically correct but may not effectively convey the intended meaning. A better way to write this sentence would be: “I finished my project early, so I rewarded myself with a trip to the movies.” In this corrected sentence, the coordinating conjunction “so” is used to join the two independent clauses together in a grammatically correct way.
Example comma splice errors

Between two independent clauses:
Incorrect:She loves to swim, she goes to the pool every day.
Correct:She loves to swim, so she goes to the pool every day.
In a list:
Incorrect:I need to buy apples, bananas, and oranges, the grocery store is closed.
Correct:I need to buy apples, bananas, and oranges because the grocery store is closed.
After an introductory phrase or clause:
Incorrect:After I finish this project, I will take a break, I’m tired.
Correct:After I finish this project, I will take a break because I’m tired.
With transitional expressions:
Incorrect:She loves to swim, however, she is afraid of the ocean.
Correct:She loves to swim. However, she is afraid of the ocean.
In dialogue:
Incorrect:“I don’t know, it’s too complicated,” he said, “I can’t explain it.”
Correct:“I don’t know, it’s too complicated,” he said. “I can’t explain it”.

Click here to How to fix comma splice?


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