An Avoidable Mistake: The Comma Splice

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A comma splice is a mistake students commonly make. It hinders the meaning of your sentence. Understanding the structure of a sentence will help you clearly explain your ideas.

Definition
A comma splice is the name given to a misused comma. It is a grammatical error. It is when you use a comma to join two independent clauses (a complete sentence that can stand on its own) that are not joined with a coordinating conjunction (and, but, for, nor, so, yet).

Example
We have to go to the store, we can buy what we need to make dinner.

The above sentence illustrates the mistake: "we have to go to the store" is a complete sentence. "We can buy what we need to make dinner" is also a complete sentence. A comma mistakenly joins them.

Sentence Structure
We have to go to the store, we can buy what we need to make dinner.

"We" is the subject of both independent clauses, "have " is the verb of the first independent clause, and "can" is the verb of the second independent clause. These clauses both have a subject and a verb and are hence complete, independent sentences.

How To Fix It:
1. Use a coordinating conjunction; these words can join two independent clauses with a comma: We have to go to the store, so we can buy what we need to make dinner.

2. Use a semi-colon; this punctuation mark can join two independent clauses that are closely related (do not use a coordinating conjunction in this case): We have to go to the store; we can buy what we need to make dinner.

3. Use a period. As these are both independent clauses, they can stand on their own. They can be two sentences: We have to go to the store. We can buy what we need to make dinner.

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Christa DiMarco, Director of Writing
cdimarco@uarts.edu
215-717-6512