Comma Splice

I’m a legitimate punctuation mark, get me out of here. This is supposedly a quote by someone who wrote a popular book on punctuation (that I have not read). If this is true, then it’s shocking to me. If this was quoted incorrectly to me, then I give the author his due apology. Regardless, it’s still a wonderful illustration of what is called a comma splice, and the comma splice error in English is becoming more and more prevalent.

Do not put a comma between two independent clauses. Either use a semicolon, or punctuate them as two separate sentences. For the aforementioned quote, then, you would write either I’m a legitimate punctuation mark; get me out of here or I’m a legitimate punctuation mark. Get me out of here. (I endorse the one with the semicolon since the two clauses are so closely related.) You could also leave the comma if you connect the two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction, as in I’m a legitimate punctuation mark, so get me out of here.

Here are more examples:

  • Incorrect: I couldn’t put the book down, I read it in one sitting.
  • Correct: I couldn’t put the book down; I read it in one sitting.
  • Correct: I couldn’t put the book down. I read it in one sitting.

 

  • Incorrect: Benjamin Franklin was an inventor and a philosopher, he was also quite a scoundrel.
  • Correct: Benjamin Franklin was an inventor and a philosopher. He was also quite a scoundrel.
  • Correct: Benjamin Franklin was an inventor and a philosopher; he was also quite a scoundrel.
  • Correct: Benjamin Franklin was an inventor and a philosopher, but he was also quite a scoundrel.

There are limited exceptions to this rule, for example, short colloquial expressions such as Here today, gone tomorrow, and, of course, we have the famous Dickens quote from A Tale of Two Cities: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, which is more of a poetic construction.

Sherry

Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever;

Sherry’s Grammar List

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