Grammar 6 min read

What is a Comma Splice and how can you fix it?

Main Takeaways:

  • Comma splices lead to run-on sentences.
  • Run-on sentences happen when you join two independent clauses using a comma.
  • Independent clauses are sentences that contain a subject and verb and can stand alone.
  • Dependent clauses also contain a subject and verb but don’t form a complete thought.
  • You can identify a comma splice by evaluating whether two clauses that can stand alone.
  • Comma splices may be used in creative writing, but they are still viewed as being technically incorrect.

If you’ve ever submitted an essay in school or for professional review, you’ve likely gotten feedback that includes the dreaded words “comma splice.” But what is a comma splice? Learn all about this grammatical boo-boo and how you can eliminate it altogether.

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Some grammar rules are made to be broken. But before you can throw caution to the wind, it’s important to know the right way to do things. Take comma splices, for example. These pesky little problems are the bane of editors everywhere, but many people don’t even know they’re committing a literary crime.

Here’s the story behind comma splices and what you can do to get rid of them for good.

What is a Comma Splice?

A comma splice occurs when a writer incorrectly joins two independent clauses using a comma. An independent clause is a sentence that contains both a subject and verb. It expresses a complete thought and can, therefore, stand independently (hence the name).
(Independent Clause): Alice went to the store to buy milk.

A dependent clause has a subject and verb but isn’t complete. It is dependent on another sentence to make sense.

(Dependent Clause): When Alice went to the store.

While joining an independent clause to a dependent clause using a comma is correct, joining two independent clauses using a comma is not.

When I make scrambled eggs, I add lots of cheese.
It was my turn to drive carpool, I picked up Mari’s kids first.

Are Comma Splices Bad?

“Bad” is a subjective word, but comma splices can make your writing confusing. While there is a tendency to use commas as a pause, that’s not their real intent. Overusing comma splices creates a series of run-on sentences. The reader is inundated with words, and it becomes difficult to follow the author’s train of thoughts. It’s like someone talks continuously without taking a breath.

A comma splice occurs when you put a comma in between two independent clauses.
A comma splice is a grammatical mistake that occurs when you put a comma in between two independent clauses.

Some writers may take creative license and insert a comma splice as a stylistic choice. While you may get away with that in informal settings, comma splices generally do not go over well in professional or academic writing.

How do you Identify a Comma Splice?

A comma splice, a type of run-on sentence, is easy to spot. Just look for two independent clauses separated by a comma but lacking a coordinating conjunction (and, or, but, etc.). If those two clauses can stand on their own, you know they’re too strong to rely on a comma. Think of a comma like a crutch; if a clause can’t stand on its own, it might need one. Whole sentences? Not so much.

How do you fix a Comma Splice?

To fix a comma splice, you need to remove the error while maintaining the original meaning of the sentence. First, you can split the joined independent clauses into two separate sentences. Your second option is to add a coordinating conjunction to the sentence right after the comma. You can also tweak one of the independent clauses to become a dependent clause. Or, you can replace the comma with a semicolon if the two clauses are closely related.

Splitting Independent Clauses

To split two independent clauses featuring a comma splice, simply remove the comma and add a period or a semicolon in between.

My computer is making funny noises, I should probably take it in to get fixed.
My computer is making funny noises. I should probably take it in to get fixed.
My computer is making funny noises; I should probably take it in to be fixed.

Adding a Coordinating Conjunction

Coordinating conjunctions are words such as and, for, but, so, and or that can be used to join two phrases or clauses. To fix a comma splice, add the appropriate coordinating conjunction after the existing comma.

Tuesday is supposed to be rainy, I better take my umbrella.
Tuesday is supposed to be rainy, so I better take my umbrella.

Turn one Independent Clause Into a Dependent Clause

Your third option for fixing a comma splice is to turn one of the two independent clauses into a dependent clause. This typically requires adding a subordinating conjunction, such as when, as long as, than, whether, whenever, while, or though.

It was Mother’s Day, I picked up flowers at the store.
Since it was Mother’s Day, I picked up flowers at the store.

Comma Splice Examples

Here are some more examples of comma splices and how you might fix them:

Examples:

Our veterinarian says our cat is fat, he needs to go on a diet.
Our veterinarian says our cat is fat, and he needs to go on a diet.
Spring starts in March, I know baseball season is right around the corner.
When Spring starts in March, I know baseball season is right around the corner.
Annika couldn’t wait for the weekend, she had big plans for Saturday night.
Annika couldn’t wait for the weekend. She had big plans for Saturday night.
I just finished doing the laundry, all my clothes are fresh and clean.
I just finished doing the laundry; all my clothes are fresh and clean.

Fixing comma splices may not fix the world, but it will make your writing a lot more professional. And all it takes is a teeny, tiny period.

Read More: How To Use Commas In Your Writing

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Krista Grace Morris

Krista heads up Marketing and Content Creation here at INK. From Linguistics and History to puns and memes, she's interested in the systems we create to share our ideas with each other.

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