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October 2014
by: Antoinette Franks, CET

Run-On Sentences: The Comma Splice

     A run-on sentence, everyone has heard that term and generally has a firm grasp of what that is.  However, the term "comma splice" is not so readily used. What is a comma splice? A comma splice is, quite simply, a run-on sentence that uses the comma to connect two independent clauses.  Quite often, people fall victim to this type of run-on sentence due to the thought that we think you can connect almost anything with the use of a comma. Well, just because you can actually insert there doesn't mean you should. You can cause a sentence to "run on" for an eternity with the use of a comma.   The rule of thumb to avoid or minimize this is if a clause can stand alone, either let it remain on its own "two feet" or opt to use a stronger punctuation, such as a semicolon or period.

     The most common characteristic of a comma splice other than the independent clauses is the need for the use of a conjunction.  If you find yourself frequently using the "three-letter" conjunctions and a comma -- and, but, for, nor, yet, or, so -- you will probably find that you have caused a run-on sentence or two with the use of a comma splice. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that if you reduce your use of these conjunctions paired with the comma, you will minimize your creation of a run-on sentence by way of a comma splice.

Examples of a comma splice:

                              It's hot outside, so put on some shorts.

                      I didn't get much sleep last night, however, if I take a nap today,

                      I should be fine.

                              My son is very unorganized, and he constantly loses things all of the time.

                              The temperature is starting to drop, and I do believe the fall season is

                     on its way.

In every example above, there is the option to use a stronger punctuation to avoid this. So remember, while the comma seems to be the "public favorite" and allows us to run on forever, it is not always the best choice.



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