Friday, July 12, 2013

The Top 20 Grammar Errors: Comma Splice

The comma splice is my favorite of the top twenty grammar errors, and on our list it ranks as the
number eight grammar error.

What is a comma splice? Back in the day, the term was run-on sentence.

We’ve already talked about the two elements you must have for a sentence to be complete. You must have at least a subject and a verb.

You get comma splice action when you smash two sentences together:

The first sentence is:

The dog chased the cat.

Dog is the subject; chased is the verb.

The second sentence is:

The cat climbed a tree.

Cat is the subject; climbed is the verb.

The comma splice acts as the divider, but the rule is to never use a comma to separate two complete sentences. Have you noticed how many of these errors on the top twenty grammar error list tend to run together? Revisit error number three: no comma in a compound sentence.

What’s a compound sentence? A compound sentence is two complete sentences combined with a conjunction. The comma splice error acts as the conjunction. Other options opposed to conjunctions are available to fix a comma splice.

As a fiction writer, I don’t always want to use a conjunction. And, but, or, and the rest of the conjunction gang can sometimes slow down a reader. You could just use a period instead of the comma splice:

The dog chased the cat. The cat climbed a tree.

But the period slows down the reader even more than a conjunction. Consider the semicolon, the bastard child of the period and the comma.

The dog chased the cat; the cat climbed the tree.

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