Punctuation: Avoiding Comma Splices

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Are you ever unsure whether you can connect those clauses with a comma, or if you need something stronger like a semicolon? The answer is one you may be familiar with: it depends! But fear not, for after this lesson the largely misunderstood comma splice will no longer afflict your writing.

Comma Splice:

  • What is a Comma Splice? A comma splice occurs when two independent clauses (a clause that has both a subject and verb and can stand alone as a separate sentence) are joined together with a comma without a coordinating conjunction or other appropriate punctuation mark: “The court dismissed the case, the evidence was insufficient.”

Avoiding the Comma Splice:

  1. Use a Period: Separate the two independent clauses into two sentences with a period: “The court dismissed the case. The evidence was insufficient.”
  2. Use a Coordinating Conjunction: Add a coordinating conjunction (remember FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) after the comma: “The court dismissed the case, for the evidence was insufficient.”
  3. Use a Semicolon: Replace the comma with a semicolon if the two independent clauses are (1) closely related in idea and (2) the second clause starts with a conjunctive adverb or transitional phrase: “The court dismissed the case; indeed, the evidence was insufficient.”
  4. Use a Colon: If the second clause illustrates or explains the first clause, a colon may be appropriate: “The court dismissed the case: the evidence was insufficient.”

And now it’s time for some practice problems, for we need not ever splice another comma again!

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1 / 5

1. Which of the following rewrites of the underlined portion is correct?  Reading unimportant emails lowers productivity, it consumes much of the typical worker’s day.

2 / 5

2. Which of the following rewrites of the underlined portion is correct? Journalists who specialize in investigative research need not sacrifice thoroughness for speed: but they still must be faster than their competitors.

3 / 5

3. Which of the following rewrites of the underlined portion is correct? Home-team bias can affect how referees decide whether an action is severe enough to warrant a penalty; referees may, for instance, take cues from the spectators’ reaction.

4 / 5

4. Which of the following rewrites of the underlined portion is correct? Because they overestimated how long the renovation would take, the organizers allocated far too many employees, some of them were reassigned to other projects.

5 / 5

5. Which of the following rewrites of the underlined portion is correct? He was more successful after his relocation to Paris compared to his hometown of New Orleans, jazz saxophonist Sydney Bechet married a Frenchwoman in 1952 and signed a recording contract with French Vogue the year after that resulted in such hit tunes as “Promenade aux Champs Elysees” and “Petite Fleur.”

Your score is

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