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comma splice


comma splice

Two independent clauses separated by a comma instead of a period or semicolon.

Though often treated as errors in traditional grammar, comma splices may be used deliberately to create a rhetorical effect of speed, excitement, informality, or confusion. (See Examples and Observations, below.)

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "This is the error beloved of composition teachers--easy to identify, just what we need to separate the sheep from the goats. But is it as clear-cut as we tend to think? The distinction between an impermissible comma splice and a legitimate juncture involving a comma is far less precise, for example, than that between a complete sentence and a fragment."
    (Anne Klinck, "Coming to Terms: Unravelling the Comma Splice." The English Journal, March 1998)

  • "Buses were bearable, subways were killing."
    (Saul Bellow, Mr. Sammler's Planet. Viking Press, 1970)

  • "The air was soggy, the season was exhausted."
    (John Updike, "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu," 1960)

  • "And she laughed and stamped the ground a little harder and rose a few inches above the pavement, pulling the others along with her, and before long not one of them was touching the ground, they were taking two steps in place and one step forward without touching the ground, yes, they were rising up over Wenceslaus Square, their ring the very image of a giant wreath taking flight, and I ran off after them down on the ground, I kept looking up at them, and they floated on, lifting first one leg, then the other."
    (Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, 1980)

  • "The gardens are dry, the road to the shore is dusty. . . .

    "By day the goldfinches dip in yellow light, by night the frogs sing the song that never goes out of favor."
    (E.B. White, "A Report in Spring." Essays of E.B. White. Harper, 1977))

  • Strunk and White on Commas and Semicolons
    "A comma is preferable [to a semicolon] when the clauses are very short and alike in form, or when the tone of the sentence is easy and conversational. . . .

    "The best dialect writers, by and large, are economical of their talents, they use the minimum, not the maximum, of deviation from the norm, thus sparing the reader as well as convincing him."
    (William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White, The Elements of Style, 3rd ed. Macmillan, 1979)

  • Ways of Correcting Comma Splices
    "Here are some comma splice errors:
    Wrong: We hiked for three days, we were very tired.
    Wrong: The television is too loud, the picture is fuzzy.
    There are five ways to correct a comma splice.
    1. Change the comma to a period and capitalize the next word.
    Correct: We hiked for three days. We were very tired.

    2. Change the comma to a semicolon.
    Correct: We hiked for three days; we were very tired.

    3. Change the comma to a semicolon and add a conjunctive adverb.
    Correct: We hiked for three days; hence, we were very tired.

    4. Add a coordinating conjunction before the second independent clause.
    Correct: We hiked for three days, so we were very tired.

    5. Change one independent clause to a dependent clause.
    Correct: Because we hiked for three days, we were very tired."
    (Edward P. Bailey and Philip A. Powell, The Practical Writer, 9th ed. Thomson Wadsworth, 2008)
Also Known As: comma fault
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