The Cruel Comma Splice
The comma splice is perhaps a tad bit cruel because this error will make you look a little not so smart. (I couldn’t use a cruel word here.)
Here’s a comma splice: I was going to eat dinner, Joe insisted on joining me.
What you might write instead:
- I was going to eat dinner. Joe insisted on joining me.
- I was going to eat dinner; Joe insisted on joining me.
- I was going to eat dinner, and Joe insisted on joining me.
You understand this easily enough if you comprehend what a sentence is. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know the characteristics of a sentence.
Yet I think most people would grasp what a sentence is if they read their writing back to themselves.
Here’s the comma splice again: I was going to eat dinner, Joe insisted on joining me.
How would you read that? How would the comma sound in the reading? I don’t know exactly, but to me it’s obvious that the stop—the pause—required by the comma isn’t sufficient for the contents of the combined, new (incorrect) sentence.
I believe that many writing failures are reading failures, that if the writer were a better reader, such a writer would come to realize what a sentence is and how to punctuate.
Now, to go backward and tell you what a comma splice is. A comma splice occurs when only a comma is used to join two independent clauses. What’s an independent clause? An independent clause is a full sentence. A full sentence is a clause that can stand on its own, having both a subject and a verb:
- She went.
- Birds fly.
- Alchemy is said to have been the precursor of chemistry because it had as its (supposed) goal not just the discovery of pure scientific fact, but the creation of something called the philosopher’s stone, a substance that would allow the alchemist to change metals such as copper into gold.
A sentence—an independent clause—can also have dependent clauses, clauses that can’t stand on their own.
Here’s the comma splice once more: I was going to eat dinner, Joe insisted on joining me.
Let’s change the second independent clause to a dependent clause: I was going to eat dinner, but then Joe insisted on joining me.
Obviously, “but then Joe insisted on joining me” isn’t an independent clause—a standalone sentence. That’s evident, isn’t it?
So you have another possibility for changing the comma splice to an acceptable written format.
With so many choices on hand and easily accessible, why would you use a comma splice and make everyone groan?
You wouldn’t unless you wanted to sabotage yourself. Think about it. Can you learn?
If you do want to learn, download a copy of The Naked Writer at Amazon.com or take a class I teach at Writers Digest University.
Next up are : 06/16/2016 – 09/08/2016 12 Weeks to a First Draft and 06/23/2016 – 08/04/2016 Writing the Mystery Novel .
See you there.