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Understanding (and Correcting) Comma Splices

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Proper comma use and placement have an important effect on sentence flow. We cover what comma splices are and how to correct them.

Comma splice error: What it is and how to fix them.
Do you know how to fix a comma splice? It’s easy!
Comma Splice—Definition

A comma splice is when two independent clauses are linked by a comma instead of separated by a period, semicolon, or conjunction.

    Love is an elusive word, many people define it differently.

What Is a Comma Splice?

A comma splice (also known as a comma fault) occurs when two independent clauses (clauses that can stand on their own) are connected with a comma rather than separated by a period, colon, semicolon, or conjunction.

In creative environments such as advertising, a comma splice can add a sort of rhythm to writing. However, in professional and academic settings, comma splices are problematic and sure to be the target of criticism. For that reason, it’s best to avoid them.

Below, we’ll review a few examples and show you how to fix a comma splice.


Comma Splice Examples

Consider the following examples:

My dog’s name is Mango, she is a boxer mix.

The storm is approaching, it’s starting to rain.

Brandon is scared of the ocean, he prefers going to the pool.

If you break down each sentence, you can easily spot the independent clauses because they make sense on their own.

  • My dog’s name is Mango. | She is a boxer mix.
  • The storm is approaching. | It’s starting to rain.
  • Brandon is scared of the ocean.| He prefers going to the pool.

Do you think you can identify a comma splice? Here’s a pop quiz:

Which of the following sentences contains a comma splice?

A) Today is a beautiful day, it is sunny and breezy.

B) Today is a beautiful day, for it is sunny and breezy.

If you chose “A,” perfect! That’s the correct answer. Now that you can identify comma splices, let’s get into how to correct them.


How To Fix a Comma Splice

There are several different ways to fix a comma splice:

1. Make the clauses into two separate sentences.

I help clean the kennels and spend time socializing the animals, it’s challenging work that has to get done.

I help clean the kennels and spend time socializing the animals. It’s challenging work that has to get done.

In the example above, the independent clauses were turned into complete sentences and therefore separated by a period.

However, when the clauses are short, sometimes this technique can make the sentences end abruptly. In that case, there are different approaches you can take.

There are different types of conjunctions—words that help link phrases and clauses within a sentence. The coordinating conjunctions are: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. An easy way to remember this is with the acronym FANBOYS. You can use these to correct a comma splice.

Yesterday I cooked an omelet for breakfast, today I made avocado toast.

Yesterday I cooked an omelet for breakfast, but today I made toast.

If the clauses are closely related, and you want to give both equal emphasis, use a semicolon to link them.

We bought a house on the beach, the water is just a few steps away from us.

We bought a house on the beach; the water is just a few steps away from us.

Remember: semicolons show a closer relationship than a period, but less separation than a colon.

4. Rewrite the clauses as one independent clause.

With a bit of editing, you can fix a comma splice by rewriting the two independent clauses as one independent clause.

A large percentage of my income comes from reselling sneakers, the rest is passive income.

Most of my income comes from reselling sneakers, while the rest is passive income.

Because em dashes can replace commas, they can also be used to fix a comma splice.

His son ate all the candy from the bag, that was all 100 pieces!

His son ate all the candy from the bag—that was all 100 pieces!


Context Matters When It Comes to Comma Splices

Remember that there are sentences in which the use of a comma splice is a stylistic choice. It’s not uncommon to come across a comma splice in creative settings. However, if a comma splice isn’t serving a purpose, then it should be corrected.

Proper use of commas (and every other punctuation mark) significantly helps improve writing skills. That’s why you should use a spelling and grammar checker that can also detect punctuation errors—like LanguageTool. This multilingual editor helps enhance your writing with error corrections, style suggestions, and rephrasing assistance. Give it a try for free.


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