Comma splices are a common punctuation error. But would you know a comma splice if you saw one? More importantly, would you know how to fix one? If your answer to either question is “no,” then you’re in the right place. Read on to find out how to spot and fix comma splices.
What Are Comma Splices?
Comma splices are a type of run-on sentence. This occurs when two main clauses (i.e., full sentences that express a complete thought) are used together without the correct punctuation. In a comma splice, it is because two sentences have been joined with a comma:
I love sandwiches, I eat them every day.
Here, for example, “I love sandwiches” and “I eat them every day” are both full sentences. And while commas have many uses, they can’t be used to join two sentences. As such, if we see two sentences with just a comma in between them, we know we have a comma splice on our hands.
If you see a comma splice in your writing, you can fix it in various ways:
Placing a period between each clause
Adding a coordinating conjunction after the comma
Replacing the comma with a semicolon
Changing the first clause into a subordinate clause
We will look at each of these in a little more detail below.
1. Fixing a Comma Splice with a Period
We use a period at the end of a sentence. So if we use one in place of the comma in the sentence above, we can fix the comma splice by presenting each clause as a separate sentence:
I love sandwiches. I eat them every day.
This is often the simplest way to fix comma splices. However, if you want to emphasize or clarify the connection between two sentences, you have a few alternatives available.
2. Fixing a Comma Splice with a Coordinating Conjunction
Conjunctions are connecting words, so we can fix a comma splice by adding one after the comma:
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I love sandwiches, so I eat them every day.
The advantage of using a conjunction is that we can show the reader how the clauses are connected. In this case we’ve used the word “so,” which means “for this reason.” We therefore know that the speaker eats sandwiches every day because of their love of bready snacks.
Keep in mind, though, that we can only use coordinating conjunctions to connect two sentences. We’ll get to subordinating conjunctions later.
3. Fixing a Comma Splice with a Semicolon
We can use a semicolon between two clauses to show they are related:
I love sandwiches; I eat them every day.
As with using “so” above, the semicolon here suggests a connection. However, the nature of the relationship here is less explicit.
4. Fixing a Comma Splice with a Subordinate Clause
While commas can’t be used to connect two main clauses, they can be used when a subordinate clause comes before the main clause in a sentence. Thus, if we change the first clause in a sentence containing a comma splice into a subordinate clause, we can fix the error:
Because I love sandwiches, I eat them every day.
As shown above, a subordinate clause includes a subordinating conjunction – in this case, “because” – and does not form a full sentence by itself. But by changing the first clause into a subordinate clause, we now have a grammatical sentence. And the choice of subordinating conjunction here shows us the relationship between the clauses (i.e., the subordinating clause gives a reason for the main clause).