Comma Splice

When two independent clauses are incorrectly joined by a comma to make one sentence.

A comma splice is a common grammatical error in English. Writers most often make this mistake when they are trying to “write by ear.” It’s a common idea that a comma indicates a pause where a reader or speaker should take a breath, but simply adding commas when you feel a break is needed is not a reliable way to make sure you’re punctuating your sentences correctly.

Hello, my name is Fidel Andrada

A comma splice is when two independent clauses are incorrectly joined by a comma to make one sentence. To avoid comma splices, you first need to be able to identify an independent clause.

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Comma Splices and Independent Clauses

An independent clause is a complete sentence that can stand on its own grammatically. To be a complete sentence, the clause must have both a subject and a verb. For example:

I went to the mall.

This is an independent clause because it has both a subject (“I”) and a verb (“went”). This forms a complete sentence.

Not all clauses with a subject and a verb can stand alone, however. A dependent clause often begins with a word that is meant to connect it to another sentence and cannot stand alone as a complete sentence. For example:

When I went to the mall

Because “when” is added to the clause, it is no longer a complete sentence on its own. This dependent clause would need to be connected to another clause to make it a complete sentence.

It is incorrect to join two independent clauses with a comma. This error is called a comma splice. For example:

I went to the mall, Jane was there.

“I went to the mall” is an independent clause that can stand alone as its own sentence. “Jane was there” is also an independent clause. It is grammatically incorrect to link these two sentences with a comma.

How to Fix Comma Splices

There are three ways to fix a comma splice. First, you can split the part before the comma and the part after the comma into two complete sentences with a period (you could also use a semi-colon for a less defined split). Here’s how to fix our example from above:

I went to the mall. Jane was there.

Second, you can join two independent clauses by adding a coordinating conjunction such as “and” after the comma. For example:

I went to the mall, and Jane was there.

Finally, you can change one of the independent clauses to a dependent clause by adding a subordinating conjunction. For example:

When I went to the mall, Jane was there.

I went to the mall because Jane was there.

Note that if your dependent clause comes first, you must use a comma to join the two clauses. If your dependent clause is second, no comma is required.

Examples of Comma Splices and Corrections

Check your understanding of comma splices by studying the examples and corrections below.

Correcting by Making Two Sentences

Error — I love going to the movies, it’s so fun.

Correction — I love going to the movies. It’s so fun.

Error — She took the boy’s cookies away, that was mean.

Correction — She took the boy’s cookies away. That was mean.

Error — The teacher was angry, the students were too loud.

Correction — The teacher was angry. The students were too loud.

Error — I think he’s in love, he acts so weird now.

Correction — I think he’s in love. He acts so weird now.

Error — She was sad when the cat ran away, she doesn’t want to get a new one.

Correction — She was sad when the cat ran away. She doesn’t want to get a new one.

Error — We went to the store, we bought milk.

Correction — We went the to the store. We bought milk.

Error — I often walk the dogs on the beach, they love splashing in the waves.

Correction — I often walk the dogs on the beach. They love splashing in the waves.

Error — I can’t wait to go on vacation, it will be hot and sunny.

Correction — I can’t wait to go on vacation. It will be hot and sunny.

Correcting by Using Coordinating Conjunctions

Error — I love going to the movies, it’s so fun.

Correction — I love going to the movies, for it’s so fun.

Error — She took the boy’s cookies away, that was mean.

Correction — She took the boy’s cookies away and that was mean.

Error — The teacher was angry, the students were too loud.

Correction — The teacher was angry, for the students were too loud.

Error — I think he’s in love, he acts so weird now.

Correction — I think he’s in love, for he acts so weird now.

Error — She was sad when the cat ran away, she doesn’t want to get a new one.

Correction — She was sad when the cat ran away, but she doesn’t want to get a new one.

Error — We went to the store, we bought milk.

Correction — We went the to the store and we bought milk.

Error — I often walk the dogs on the beach, they love splashing in the waves.

Correction — I often walk the dogs on the beach, for they love splashing in the waves.

Error — I can’t wait to go on vacation, it will be hot and sunny.

Correction — I can’t wait to go on vacation, for it will be hot and sunny.

Correcting by Creating a Dependent Clause

Error — I love going to the movies, it’s so fun.

Correction — I love going to the movies because it’s so fun.

Error — She took the boy’s cookies away, that was mean.

Correction — When she took the boy’s cookies away, that was mean.

Error — The teacher was angry, the students were too loud.

Correction — The teacher was angry because the students were too loud.

Error — I think he’s in love, he acts so weird now.

Correction — I think he’s in love because he acts so weird now.

Error — She was sad when the cat ran away, she doesn’t want to get a new one.

Correction — Even though she was sad when the cat ran away, she doesn’t want to get a new one.

Error — We went to the store, we bought milk.

Correction — We went the to the store where we bought milk.

Error — I often walk the dogs on the beach, they love splashing in the waves.

Correction — I often walk the dogs on the beach since they love splashing in the waves.

Error — I can’t wait to go on vacation, it will be hot and sunny.

Correction — I can’t wait to go on vacation as it will be hot and sunny.

Strong Sentences

Once you get used to asking yourself if the two parts of your sentence can stand alone as independent clauses, you’ll be able to correct comma splices in your writing with ease. To add interest to your written work, try varying the way you correct a comma splice so your sentences don’t all sound the same. When you master this trick, your English grammar will automatically improve.

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