Punctuation Rule: How To Correct A Comma Splice

An explanation of how to recognize and correct this common error and follow punctuation rules.

A comma splice is a type of run-on sentence. It is the attempt to join two independent clauses with a comma. Independent clauses must either be joined by a coordinator (one of the coordinating conjunctions or one of the correlatives), or separated by a full stop (a period, question mark, exclamation point, or semicolon).

I. Coordinators

CORRELATIVES:

either . . . or

neither . . .nor

not only . . . but also

both . . . and

COORDINATING CONJUNCTIONS:

and

but

or

nor

yet

so

(Most grammar and usage textbooks also include "for" in the list of coordinating conjunctions, but it actually functions as a subordinating conjunction, translating more or less as "because," and therefore should not be treated as a coordinating conjunction.)

II. Stops

END-STOP PUNCTUATION (FULL STOP):

period (.)

question mark (?)

exclamation point (!)

semicolon (;)

III. Independent Clauses

An independent clause is a clause that can stand alone as a sentence. Whenever two independent clauses are next to each other, they must either be completely separated (with end-stop punctuation) or completely joined (with a coordinator).

1. One way to correct a comma splice is to add a full stop (end-stop punctuation) between the two independent clauses.

--EXAMPLES--

WRONG:

A person who is hard of hearing is not trying to be annoying, it takes only a little effort to help him understand what you are saying.

CORRECTIONS:

A person who is hard of hearing is not trying to be annoying. It takes only a little effort to help him understand what you are saying.

or

A person who is hard of hearing is not trying to be annoying; it takes only a little effort to help him understand what you are saying.

WRONG:

My parents can't make it this weekend, they have other plans.

CORRECTIONS:

My parents can't make it this weekend. They have other plans.

or

My parents can't make it this weekend; they have other plans.

2. Another way to correct a comma splice is to join the two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction.

--EXAMPLES--

WRONG:

The biology club will meet on Friday, several important issues will be discussed.

CORRECTON:

The biology club will meet on Friday, and several important issues will be discussed.

WRONG:

Our Uncle Tom died rather suddenly, my brother Allen was tapped to manage his business until a suitable replacement could be found.

CORRECTION:

Our Uncle Tom died rather suddenly, and my brother Allen was tapped to manage his business until a suitable replacement could be found.

WRONG:

He agreed to do the job for awhile, he hoped they would soon find another manager.

CORRECTION:

He agreed to do the job for awhile, but he hoped they would soon find another manager.

WRONG:

Our uncle's partners knew Allen would stay for only a few months, they hurried to interview possible replacements.



CORRECTION:

Our uncle's partners knew Allen would stay for only a few months, so they hurried to interview possible replacements.

3. A third way to correct a comma splice would be to change one of the independent clauses into a dependent clause, which can then be set off from the main clause by a comma if it is a non-restrictive dependent clause.

--EXAMPLES""

WRONG:

My parents can't make it this weekend, they have other plans.

CORRECTION:

My parents can't make it this weekend, because they have other plans.

WRONG:

The biology club will meet on Friday, several important matters will be discussed.

CORRECTION:

When the biology club meets on Friday, several important matters will be discussed.

WRONG:

Our Uncle Tom died rather suddenly, my brother Allen was tapped to run his business until a suitable replacement could be found.

CORRECTION:

When our Uncle Tom died rather suddenly, my brother Allen was tapped to run his business until a suitable replacement could be found.

WRONG:

He agreed to do the job for awhile, he hoped they would soon find another manager.

CORRECTIONS:

Although he agreed to do the job for awhile, he hoped they would soon find another manager.

or

He agreed to do the job for awhile, though he hoped they would soon find another manager.

WRONG:

Our uncle's partners knew Allen would stay for only a few months, they hurried to interview possible replacements.

CORRECTION:

Because our uncle's partners knew Allen would stay for only a few months, they hurried to interview possible replacements.

IV. Conjunctive Adverbs

A frequent cause of comma splices is the mistaking of a conjunctive adverb for a conjunction. Although conjunctive adverbs have a weak conjunctive (joining) quality, they are actually sentence adverbs, not conjunctions, and cannot be used to join independent clauses. Here is a list of the most commonly used conjunctive adverbs:

accordingly

also

anyhow

as a result

besides

consequently

for example

furthermore

hence

henceforth

however

in addition

indeed

in fact

instead

likewise

meanwhile

moreover

namely

nevertheless

notwithstanding

otherwise

similarly

so

still

then

thereby

therefore

thus

yet

Whenever a conjunctive adverb appears BETWEEN two independent clauses (rather than simply as a modifier WITHIN a single independent clause), the two clauses must be separated by a full stop.

--EXAMPLES--

WRONG:

She will never agree to give you an extension, therefore you had better get that paper finished tonight.

CORRECTIONS:

She will never agree to give you an extension; therefore you had better get that paper finished tonight.

or

She will never agree to give you an extension. Therefore you had better get that paper finished tonight.

WRONG:

Most freshmen feel overwhelmed by the workload in their college courses, nevertheless they usually spend more time socializing than studying.

CORRECTIONS:

Most freshmen feel overwhelmed by the workload in their college courses; nevertheless, they usually spend more time socializing than studying.

or

Most freshmen feel overwhelmed by the workload in their college courses. Nevertheless, they usually spend more time socializing than studying.

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