Comma Splices and How to Avoid Them

Contributor: Heather Cameron. Lesson ID: 13749

What's nice about a comma splice? Nothing! Learn all about comma splices and how to avoid them. You may be surprised how often you make this common grammar mistake in your everyday writing!

categories

Grammar

subject
English / Language Arts
learning style
Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Otter
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Skill Sharpener

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio:

Some athletes seem like they can run on and on without a break, but they have to pause at some point for breath. Just like a runner, your sentences can't run-on forever.

Watch this 1981 FedEx commercial with John Moschitta from ThreeOranges:

  • Did you understand anything the businessman was saying?

It's hard to understand ideas when they are strewn together in one long breath. That's why it's important to recognize and avoid comma splices, so that you can express your ideas clearly.

Comma splices are common mistakes in writing.

A comma splice is when a writer tries to connect two complete thoughts or main clauses together with a comma.

You have probably heard them called run-on sentences.

Let's learn how to avoid them!

ice cream cones

Take a look at this popular tongue twister:

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.

  • Is this sentence using correct grammar?

You should have answered no. The sentence is incorrect because it contains comma splices.

The writer uses commas to try to separate all three complete thoughts.

That's right! I scream, you scream, and we all scream for ice cream are all full sentences.

  • Why?

They all contain the basics of a full sentence: a subject or subject phrase and a verb or verb phrase.

Take a look:

  Subject Verb Subject + Verb
  I scream I scream

 

  Subject Verb Subject + Verb
  you scream you scream

 

  Subject Verb
Subject Phrase + Verb Phrase
  we scream we all scream for ice cream

 

  • How could you fix this tongue twister to make it grammatically correct?

You could write:

I scream. You scream. We all scream for ice cream.

or

I scream, you scream, and we all scream for ice cream.

  • What can you do if you notice that you have written a run-on sentence?

There are a few different ways to fix a comma splice:

Separate the sentences with a period.

If it seems as though a comma is being used incorrectly, just make a new sentence.

While juggling six apples, the performer told jokes, then he danced a jig.

Avoid the comma splice by dividing this statement into two sentences.

While juggling six apples, the performer told jokes. Then he danced a jig.

Use a comma and a coordinating conjunction.

To avoid comma splices, you can bring the thoughts together with words that are called conjunctions. Coordinating conjunctions are connecting words like and, but, or so.

While juggling six apples, the performer told jokes, then he danced a jig.

Avoid the comma splice by connecting the ideas with a coordinating conjunction.

While juggling six apples, the performer told jokes, and then he danced a jig.

In place of a comma, use a semicolon.

Semicolons are able to connect two full sentences. If you see a comma splice, replace it with a semicolon.

While juggling six apples, the performer told jokes, then he danced a jig.

Avoid the comma splice by separating the full thoughts with a semicolon.

While juggling six apples, the performer told jokes; then he danced a jig.

To review, watch Comma Splices Explained from Imagine Easy Solutions:

  • How can you avoid comma splices in your writing?

Track how many commas you use in a sentence. Ask yourself why you used the comma and if it is necessary.

Check to see if the comma is trying to connect two complete sentences. If it is, you now know that you should create a totally new sentence, use a coordinating conjunction, or use a semicolon.

When you are ready, head over to the Got It? section to practice!

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