What Is a Comma Splice?

There are certain words in the English language that I love to hear and say. “Splice” is one of those words. I don’t know why, but it just sounds so good to my ears.

This post, however, is not going to be about words that you like to hear. It is going to be about this thing called comma splice. What is it anyway, and why are some people so gung ho on avoiding it?

Consider this:

I woke up at 3 in the afternoon, I was not able to go to church.

The two clauses – one before the comma and the other after – can stand alone as sentences. That’s basically what a comma splice is: when you combine two independent clauses using a comma.

Why is a comma splice wrong?

To answer that, we need to understand how a comma is used when joining independent clauses. The rule is to use a comma before the coordinating conjunction that joins the two clauses. (Now there are actually exceptions to this rule.) In short, it is not a comma’s function to put two independent clauses together.

How do we fix a comma splice?

The most obvious fix would be to use a coordinating conjunction. Using the same example, we can tweak it and come up with:

I woke up at 3 in the afternoon, so I was not able to go to church.

Another way would be to simply separate the two clauses.

I woke up at 3 in the afternoon. I was not able to go to church.

It really is that simple. You may find yourself using a comma splice unwittingly, and truth be told, some of your readers may not even notice it. This error does not really get in the way of communication. However, providing error-free content is something that we should all be proud of. The next time you catch yourself using a comma splice, go ahead and quickly fix it!

Before I end, I want to point out that there are certain exceptions to this rule. In the next post, I will be sharing some cases wherein a comma splice is actually acceptable.


4 responses
  1. Fran Aslam Avatar

    Thanks for the first Grammar lesson. Come to think of it, I speak and write English as it comes itself. But lately reading again and again about proof reading, I wanted to revise the rules I learned about Grammar. When I tried to revise it myself, I felt I do not know any Grammar anymore. I decided to refresh it so I have full confidence. Now I do not know if I wrote this comment in proper English or not.

    However, thanks for the first lesson in Grammar and I look forward to more.

    One more thing, I like your blog a lot and it is very popular too.

  2. Beverley Avatar

    Comma splice!??
    A semi-colon is required, not a comma, or a “comma splice”.
    Old grammar – and punctuation – still stands.
    I am new to your site but find it quite interesting.
    Looking for a freelance writing job – but have different opinion on grammar, it seems!
    Montreal, Canada.

    1. Derek Thompson Avatar

      I thought it was just me!

  3. Noemi Twigg Avatar
    Noemi Twigg

    Thanks for dropping by, Fran and Beverly. I hope to hear more from you in the future!

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