Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Comma Splices: Scarier Than the Movie


Anna writes:
I just got a B- on my first assignment in my English Composition class. Apparently I made some grammatical mistakes, and I don't even know what some of them are. Here is an example of a sentence:
Maria noticed that it was getting late, she just wanted to go home.
My teacher wrote splice in red pen. What does that mean?
A splice is the intertwining of two things, such as wires or genes (see poster, above). Your teacher was pointing out a comma splice, which happened when you used a comma to connect two independent clauses. The problem is that commas are used for separating, not uniting. Since each independent clause contains a subject and a predicate, you can think of them as two sentences. The good news is that there are several easy ways to avoid a comma splice.

Quick fixes:
  • The simplest solution is to write two separate sentences. Maria noticed that it was getting late. She just wanted to go home.
  • You can join independent clauses with a comma if one clause begins with a conjunction. Maria noticed that it was getting late, and she just wanted to go home. Once Maria noticed that it was getting late, she just wanted to go home.
  • You can join independent clauses with a semicolon to indicate that they are closely related. Maria noticed that it was getting late; she just wanted to go home.

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