I have a friend who likes to put commas everywhere in his sentences; he jokingly calls them “artistic commas.” And while artistic commas might be fine when you are writing poetry, a diary entry, or an email to your friend, they are not ok when they are breaking a fundamental English grammar rule–one of the biggest there is. This offender is called the “comma splice.” Dun-dun-DUUNNN.
You might be familiar with splicing from horror films. To splice is to join two things together by interweaving their parts. In everyday life, you might splice together two cable wires. In horror movies, sometimes two scary beasts are spliced together to create one ultra-scary beast. A grammatical comma splice is almost as bad. Maybe worse.
Comma splices join together two independent clauses that would really rather be apart.
Here’s an example:
I run five miles along the river on Saturdays, I do this even when it’s raining.
That little offending comma in the middle is creating a comma splice.
“I run five miles along the river on Saturdays” is a complete sentence (an independent clause).
“I do this even when it’s raining” is a complete sentence (an independent clause).
And we can’t join them with just a comma.
How to Fix a Comma Splice
To fix a comma splice, we can do one of four things:
- We can separate these two disagreeable independent clauses with a period.<
- Example: I run five miles along the river on Saturdays. I do this even when it’s raining.
- We can join them together with a friendly coordinating conjunction that says “Hey, guys, let’s hold hands.” There are seven of these happy mediators we can choose from: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.
- Example: I run five miles along the river on Saturdays, and I do this even when it’s raining.
- We can force them together with a semicolon. Semicolons are sophisticated and sometimes this makes for a rather elegant solution.
- Example: I run five miles along the river on Saturdays; I do this even when it’s raining.
- We can subordinate one clause to the other, so that it becomes a dependent clause, not an independent clause.
- Example: I run five miles along the river on Saturdays, even when it’s raining.
So don’t let the horror of comma splices keep you at night up any longer. They are all over the ACT, and they often appear in far more complex sentences. So if you see two independent clauses spliced together with only a comma, make sure you bring in some reinforcements so they can live in harmony.
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About Kristin Fracchia
Dr. Kristin Fracchia makes sure Magoosh's sites are full of awesome, free resources that can be found by students prepping for standardized tests. With a PhD from UC Irvine and degrees in Education and English, she’s been working in education since 2004 and has helped students prepare for standardized tests, as well as college and graduate school admissions, since 2007. She enjoys the agony and bliss of trail running, backpacking, hot yoga, and esoteric knowledge.
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