What is comma splicing, and how can I avoid it?

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What is comma splicing?

Put simply, comma splicing is when you use a comma to separate sentences when you should be using a full stop or a semicolon.

It’s one of the most common punctuation errors people make, and it can really hinder your mark.

How can I avoid it?

Here’s a straightforward rule to remember:

When you’ve used a comma in a sentence, ask yourself if it could be a full stop. If your answer is ‘yes‘, you should not be using a comma.

Let’s have a look at some examples.

Apples are my favourite fruit, I’m not too keen on pears.

I’ve always found English hard, Maths seems much simpler to me.

Girls Aloud are the greatest girl group of all time, I’ve liked every one of their 22 singles.

In each of the sentences above, the comma could be a full stop – and so shouldn’t be a comma.

When should I use a comma, then?

Use a comma when you’re separating a main clause (one that could be a sentence on its own) from a subordinate one (one that could not be a sentence).

Have a look at these examples where the subordinate clauses are underlined.

After we left the cinema, we went to Nando’s.

Because I loved him, I let him go.

I love children, although I couldn’t eat a whole one.

None of the underlined subordinate clauses would be a sentence on their own, and so the commas are fine.

A bit of revision

Think you’ve got your head around comma splicing? Let’s see!

For each of the examples below, decide if the comma is okay (i.e. is separating a main clause from a subordinate one) or is a comma splice (i.e. should be a full stop).

1. Even though I’ve enjoyed working here, I can’t stay any longer.

2. All Bran is a high fibre cereal, it’s great for keeping your bowel movements regular.

3. As you’ve worked hard today, you can leave early.

4. I don’t want to talk about it, you’ve ruined my life.

5. If you want to learn more about comma splicing, why not Google it?

Scroll down for the answers; they’re just below the doges.

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1. The comma is fine, as the first part of the sentence is a subordinate clause. 2. A dreaded comma splice, as it could be a full stop. 3. The comma is fine – the first part of the sentence is a subordinate clause. 4. Splice! The comma should be a full stop or semicolon. 5. The comma is right, as there’s a subordinate clause at the start of the sentence.

4 comments

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