In the last post, I talked about a major error in writing – a comma splice. As I mentioned in that post, there are some cases wherein using a comma splice just might be acceptable. In fact, this is in an ongoing debate.
So when is a comma splice acceptable?
According to Strunk & White, one can use a comma splice “when the clauses are very short and alike in form.” The most commonly cited example for this case is the popular line:
I came, I saw, I conquered.
Diana Hacker of A Writer’s Reference also gives some examples:
Man proposes, God disposes.
The gates swung open, the bridge fell, the portcullis was drawn up.
Furthermore, when the clauses involved express contrast, it can be acceptable to use a comma splice. Here are some examples.
This is my mother, that is my aunt.
It’s not a field cricket, it’s a snow cricket.
They didn’t go to the beach, they went to the mountains.
I can’t emphasize enough how controversial this construction is. However, if you do decide to put it in practice, I think that you’ll find that some other writers will agree with you.
It seems that another qualification for a comma splice to be acceptable is that if you’re a skilled writer, and you’re writing poetically. Here are a couple of well known writers who made use of this “error” in their writing.
The pleasures of the intellect are permanent, the pleasures of the heart are transitory. – Henry David Thoreau
Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought. – Henri Bergson
In this case, it becomes a matter of style. Experienced writers will tell you that, while you can use a comma splice, you do so at your own risk.
There you have it – cases wherein you may use a comma splice to get your point across. Is using a comma splice punishable by death? Maybe for some people it is. However, you can get away with it every so often.