Comma Splice: A Misunderstood Error of Omission

What is it?

A comma splice is often perceived as a grammatical mistake involving a comma. This assumption is incorrect. The presence of a comma splice does not mean that the comma is mistakenly included in a sentence. In fact, the comma has every right to make its home between two independent sentences (clauses that can stand alone) when something serves as a bridge between them. It is omitting the coordinating conjunction to connect the two sentences that creates a comma splice, which is essentially a run-on sentence. In essence, two sentences are masquerading as one.

How to correct it

Since a comma splice is the presence of a comma connecting two independent sentences made erroneous by the absence of a coordinating conjunction (remember FANBOYS to recall them – For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So), correcting it is an easy fix. You can join the sentences by adding the appropriate conjunction or replacing the comma with a semicolon, or you can separate the sentences into two distinct ones. See the below examples:

Adding the conjunction

Comma splice: Comma splices do not alter the meaning of a sentence, your readers can still understand what you intend to convey.

Corrected version: Comma splices do not alter the meaning of a sentence, and your readers can still understand what you intend to convey.

Using a semicolon

Comma splice: When you commit the grievous comma splice error, your readers may find you incompetent as a writer, it appears as if you do not understand what a run-on sentence looks like.

Corrected version: When you commit the grievous comma splice error, your readers may find you incompetent as a writer; it appears as if you do not understand what a run-on sentence looks like.

Separating the independent sentences

Comma splice: Your credibility as a writer is called into question when you commit a comma splice, the message you are trying to convey is often taken less seriously.

Corrected version: Your credibility as a writer is called into question when you commit a comma splice. The message you are trying to convey is often taken less seriously.

Avoiding comma splices and choosing corrections

To avoid comma splices, make sure to proofread carefully, and read sentences out loud with a significant pause representing the comma when you are unsure. This helps to determine if the two sentences can stand independently of one another.

Depending on the nature of the sentences, adding the coordinating conjunction or replacing the comma with a semicolon is sometimes the best option. In other situations, creating two separate sentences is the better option. The more closely related the sentences are, the more you want to emphasize the connection. A coordinating conjunction and comma suggest the strongest connection. A semicolon suggests a slightly stronger connection than separating the two sentences because it is viewed as a soft ending punctuation mark rather than a hard comma, and separation of the sentences still implies a connection, but is not as strong as the other options.