Comma Splice | Definition, Examples, & Rules
A comma splice is a grammatical error that occurs when a comma is used to join two independent clauses without a conjunction. An independent clause can function as a standalone sentence, because it has its own subject and verb.
To fix a comma splice, you can:
- Replace the comma with a semicolon (;) to show that the two parts of the sentence are closely related
- Replace the comma with a full stop (.) to create two separate sentences
- Add a coordinating or subordinating conjunction (e.g., ‘and’, ‘although’) to indicate the relationship between the clauses or to emphasise one of them
|Sentence with comma splice||Revised sentence(s)|
|Rose likes fruit, she doesn’t like vegetables.||Rose like fruit; she doesn’t like vegetables.|
|Eli is a volunteer firefighter, Ben is an event planner.||Eli is a volunteer firefighter. Ben is an event planner.|
|Sam studied for his exam, he felt confident.||Sam studied for his exam, and he felt confident.|
What is a comma splice?
A comma splice occurs when a comma is incorrectly used to join two independent clauses. This is considered a grammatical error because it can affect the clarity and flow of a sentence.
Using a semicolon to fix a comma splice
You can replace the comma with a semicolon when a logical or sequential connection between the two parts of the sentence is clear. A semicolon is similar to a full stop, but it suggests a closer link between the two clauses.
The word appearing immediately after a semicolon should begin with a lowercase letter.
Using a full stop to fix a comma splice
You can replace the comma with a full stop so that each of the independent clauses is a separate sentence.
This is particularly effective when the ideas of the two clauses are distinct and the relationship between them does not need to be emphasised.
Adding a conjunction to fix a comma splice
You can also fix a comma splice by retaining the comma and adding a coordinating or subordinating conjunction to one of the clauses.
Add a coordinating conjunction
To keep the two clauses together in a single sentence, you can add a coordinating conjunction like ‘and’, ‘but’, or ‘so’ immediately after the comma.
This helps you to convey the relationship between the two independent clauses.
|And||Indicate connection||He plays the guitar, and he can sing.|
|But||Indicate contrast||Sarah tied her shoelaces, but the shoes were still loose.|
|So||Introduce a result||Mike lost his phone, so he had to buy a new one.|
Add a subordinating conjunction
A subordinating conjunction can also be added to either the first or second clause if you want to keep the two clauses in a single sentence. This places emphasis on the clause that doesn’t contain the conjunction.
|Although||Introduce a contrast||Although I’ve been lifting weights, I haven’t gotten any stronger.|
|Because||Introduce a result or outcome||Everyone brought their umbrellas, because it was expected to rain.|
|Once||To mean ‘as soon as’||Once the dog starts barking, the baby wakes up.|
A conjunctive adverb (e.g., ‘however’, ‘thus’, ‘therefore’, ‘nonetheless’) connects two clauses by using the second clause to modify the first. Conjunctive adverbs are typically placed at the start of a sentence or clause and followed by a comma.
Comma splices often occur when conjunctive adverbs are mistaken for coordinating conjunctions and used in a similar way. To fix this, replace the comma with a semicolon or a full stop, or use a coordinating conjunction instead.
Is a comma splice ever OK?
While comma splices are not acceptable in formal or academic writing, they are very common in conversational contexts like text messaging, social media, and email, and nobody is likely to object to them there.
They can also be used in creative writing. For example, comma splices are commonly used in fiction to emphasise the speed of a character’s speech or thoughts. This rhetorical device is called asyndeton.
Worksheet: Comma splice
Test your knowledge of comma splice by using our practice worksheet below. Determine whether the practice sentences contain a comma splice or not.