This very helpful article first appeared on Live Write Thrive and was written by the blogger herself, author C. S. Lakin.
You might know it as a run-on sentence, a fused sentence, or a comma splice. When two independent clauses—sentences that can stand on their own—are joined by only a comma, grammarians get excited.
The good news is there are four easy fixes for sentences like this one:
Buoyed by his boss’s glowing endorsement, Jack left early, he planned to celebrate with a trip.
Either make two separate sentences:
Buoyed by his boss’s glowing endorsement, Jack left early. He planned to celebrate with a trip.
Or separate the clauses with a semicolon:
Buoyed by his boss’s glowing endorsement, Jack left early; he planned to celebrate with a trip.
Or connect the two clauses with a coordinating conjunction along with that comma:
Buoyed by his boss’s glowing endorsement, Jack left early, for he planned to celebrate with a trip.
Or use a subordinating conjunction to join the clauses. This turns one of the clauses into an incomplete thought:
Buoyed by his boss’s glowing endorsement, Jack left early because he planned to celebrate with a trip.
Of course, someone is always looking for an exception to the rule. And, as usual, the “no-comma-splices rule” has one. Bryan Garner notes that most authorities permit a comma splice when the clauses are short and closely related, like Julius Caesar’s famous “I came, I saw, I conquered.” No room for misunderstanding there.
Likewise, when the context is informal—such as “Let’s face it, this is not going to end well.” No one is going to take you to task for that splice. And keep in mind, if you’re writing fiction, your characters might speak and think using comma splices, which is perfectly acceptable.
That said, a dash or colon in place of the comma at times might be equally acceptable and avoid any hint of a comma splice.
All Rights Reserved, C. S. Lakin, January 23, 2015
C.S. Lakin is a novelist, a copyeditor, a writing coach, a mom, a backpacker, and a whole bunch of other things.
She loves teaching workshops on the writing craft at writers’ conferences and retreats. If your writers’ group would like to have her teach, drop her a line.
She is the author of several books in a variety of genres and an all around fun and informative person to learn from. If you haven’t already, please check out her awarding winning blog, Live Write Thrive.