Grammarland – The Comma Splice

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Comma Ninja does not appreciate being misused.

After some soul searching, erm I mean blog searching, I discovered that it’s been way too long since I’ve tackled a grammar subject here at My Literary Quest.  Today we learn about the dreaded comma splice. Earlier this year I discovered that I am a repeat offender when it comes to creating comma splices. A dear friend, who also happens to be a grammar guru, critiqued one of my chapters and found dozens of the little monsters.

Turns out what I thought was a legitimate way to write a dramatic descriptive sentence was completely wrong.

A comma splice is when two independent clauses are smooshed together using only a comma. An independent clause is usually a simple sentence. He went to school. She ate a banana. The aardvark hates socks.  It can stand on it’s own without any other clauses. One or both clauses can also be a compound or complex clause as well, but it doesn’t happen as often.

 

The following sentences are comma splices (and may or may not have been taken from one of my chapters).

1. Perhaps we can figure it out together, tell me what you were doing.

2.  Something is different about you, you are sad.

3.  She had never made the journey to his mount before , she had never needed to.

4. Something has changed within me, I’ve discovered something new.

 

The simple fix is to break the sentences back into two sentences.

1. Perhaps we can figure it out together.  Tell me what you were doing.

2.  Something is different about you.  You are sad.

3.  She had never made the journey to his mount before. She had never needed to.

4. Something has changed within me.  I’ve discovered something new.

 

Simple short sentences can read a bit choppy. Another way to fix the sentence is to use a comma and coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) or subordinating conjunction (see this handy list)

1. Perhaps we can figure it out together, if you tell me what you were doing.

2.  Something is different about you, for you are sad.

3.  She had never made the journey to his mount before, because she had never needed to.

4. Something has changed within me, now that I’ve discovered something new.

 

Some grammarians will say to use a semicolon, and this is correct if the two clauses are related to each other.  However, most publishers shy away from the semicolon between clauses because modern readers don’t like them.

While these are still not stellar sentences, they are technically correct. This is why editing is so gosh darn important. In the revision process they will most likely be changed entirely to read more smoothly.

 

More helpful links:

Purdue OWL: Comma Splices

Wikipedia: Comma Splice

 

Favorite Grammarland posts:

Insubordinate little devils, um I mean Clauses

That dratted “That”

“Dialogue punctuation?” he asked, “But why?”

Get your Dangling Participle out of my face!

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About Jodi

I'm an aspiring novelist working in fantasy and suspense, for now. I also have two pretty awesome blogs! https://myliteraryquest.wordpress.com and http://jodilmilnerauthor.wordpress.com
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4 Responses to Grammarland – The Comma Splice

  1. Thanks for the reminders. I get so caught up in telling the story that those nasty commas tend to pop up on their own.

    • Jodi says:

      It’s like they have a mind of their own, little devils. Better to be caught up in the flow of the story than be so stuck that comma hunting sounds like fun.

  2. ericjbaker says:

    I believe this error is a result of writers hearing the intended sentence rhythm is their heads and not realizing others won’t read it that way.

    • Jodi says:

      I totally agree. I think my editor added about forty commas to my 20 page story. Can’t wait to see what the line editor finds.

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