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Punctuation: Comma splices and how to avoid them

Comma splices are extremely common, most writers don't even realise they're using them.





Actually, the sentence before has a comma splice. Did you spot it? If you didn't spot it then this blog post will really help you banish them from your writing.


My advice would be to write freely and then edit, edit, and edit some more. One of the things on your checklist should be to check for these pesky little splices. They might sound right in your brain, but grammatically they're a big no-no.


But, what is a comma splice?


Well, a comma splice is when a comma is used to join two independent clauses, which are sentences that could stand alone and still make sense.


Using the introductory sentence as an example:


Comma splices are extremely common, most writers don't even realise they're using them.


The first part of the sentence, 'comma splices are extremely common', is an independent clause and makes sense all on its own. The second part is also an independent clause, 'most writers don't even realise they're using them', and it doesn't need any further explanation in context. So, a comma isn't needed.


As they are complete sentences that make sense, it's best to use a full stop to separate the two independent clauses.


Comma splices are extremely common. Most writers don't even realise they're using them.


There. All fixed!



But what if there's a close connection between the two?


Sometimes a full stop seems too formal. Too structured. Sometimes it needs to flow a little more freely without being bogged down with full stops. I get it.


This is where a coordinating conjunction comes out to play. A coordinating conjunction is something that joins two independent clauses together.


Example:


Comma splices are extremely common, and most writers don't even realise they're using them.


There's a really good way to remember the seven coordinating conjunctions: FANBOYS.


  • F - For

  • A - And

  • N - Nor

  • B - But

  • O - Or

  • Y - Yet

  • S - So

All you need to do is pick the best fit, and you're all sorted.


None of the coordinating conjunctions seem to fit. What now?


Sometimes, a coordinating conjunction might not seem to fit the context, or might make the sentence seem a little clunky. If this is the case, you can replace the comma with a semicolon when the two sentences are closely related.


Example:


Comma splices are extremely common; most writers don't even realise they're using them.


It can be easy to get carried away with the semicolon though, so make sure to use them sparingly.


Finally, you could always change the beginning of the sentence into a subordinate clause, which means it's incomplete and needs further explanation.


Example:


As comma splices are extremely common, most writers don't even realise they're using them.


See the difference? If the first clause had a full stop with a subordinate clause, it would cause a sentence fragment, as it's not a full thought.


As comma splices are extremely common. What? What's the result? There isn't one in this sentence. But that's a blog post for another day :)


Did you find this useful? If you did, share it around. You never know who might need to hear this.



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Happy writing!


Hayley

xo