You were probably taught back in grade school that run-on sentences are grammatically incorrect and should be avoided like the plague.
While there are a number of ways to fix run-ons, adding commas will only work in certain situations. To avoid creating a comma splice, you’ll want to make sure you aren’t asking for more than what this little punctuation mark can handle.
What Is a Comma Splice?
A comma splice occurs when two independent clauses (two clauses that can stand on their own as complete sentences) are joined by a comma without a conjunction (words such as and, yet, but, and so on).
Comma splices can be considered run-on sentences, or simply punctuation errors. In this article we’ll learn 3 different ways to fix a comma splice.
Comma Splice Examples
Below are 4 sentences that contain comma splices.
1. I don’t know what he’s doing, I didn’t ask him.
In the sentence above, the first clause, “I don’t know what he’s doing,” is independent because it can stand on its own as a complete sentence.
The same can be said of the second clause, “I didn’t ask him.” A comma is not enough to hold two independent clauses together, which is why this is an example of a comma splice.
2. He wants to visit Sardinia, it’s really beautiful there.
The clause before the comma, “He wants to visit Sardinia,” can stand on its own. So, too, can “It’s really beautiful there.”
This sentence can easily be rewritten as two sentences:
He wants to visit Sardinia. It’s really beautiful there.
Thus, this is another example of a comma splice.
3. You were late, I left without you.
Both of the above clauses would be complete sentences on their own. You might notice while reading this sentence that something seems to be missing; the two clauses seem like they should be connected somehow, but we are not offered an explanation.
As you will see in the examples below, a conjunction could easily fix this comma splice.
4. I love going to the beach, it’s so relaxing.
“I love going to the beach” and “It’s so relaxing” could both pass as complete sentences on their own.
Although this sentence might often resemble the way we speak in everyday life, it’s still an example of a comma splice.
How to Fix A Comma Splice
There are 3 main ways to quickly correct a comma splice. To see how each method can be put into practice, let’s use the following example:
I don’t hate it, I don’t love it, either.
Method 1: Use a Conjunction
A conjunction is a word that connects clauses or coordinates them within the same sentence. An easy way to remember the 7 coordinating conjunctions is with the FANBOYS acronym:
Using the example above, we can rewrite the sentence using the conjunction “but” to fix the comma splice:
I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it, either.
Inserting the conjunction also adds more clarity and flow to the sentence.
Method 2: Use a Semicolon
Another way to fix a comma splice is by replacing the comma with a semicolon. Semicolons are stronger than commas and can hold together two independent clauses.
I don’t hate it; I don’t love it, either.
However, when using a semicolon, make sure that there is a close enough connection between the two clauses. If the connection isn’t obvious enough, a separate sentence might be a better solution.
Method 3: Create Separate Sentences
If adding a conjunction or using a semicolon doesn’t seem appropriate, comma splices can also be fixed by simply making two separate sentences.
I don’t hate it. I don’t love it, either.
While this doesn’t make for the most interesting of compositions, it eliminates the issue of a run-on sentence and is still more clear.
Comma Splice Quiz
Download our Comma Splice Quiz (with answers) and see if you can rewrite the following sentences without comma splices.
- Sarah didn’t want to go to the beach today, it was too cloudy.
- Their breakup was inevitable, they were always arguing.
- I think I’ll go to the mall, I don’t feel like going to the movies.
- These flowers are lovely, they really brighten up the room.
- I don’t like rap music, I prefer rock.
Is a Comma Splice Always Wrong?
Although comma splices are considered errors that should be avoided in formal writing, you may have noticed that they appear quite often in creative writing.
This is especially true in dialogue, since comma splices often reflect the way we speak in real life. Most authors strive to make their dialogue as realistic as possible, so including this “error” in their writing makes sense.
So while you should try to avoid comma splices in academic or nonfiction writing, there might be a place for them in your fictional work.
What’s your biggest grammatical pet peeve? Share it with us in the comments below!