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Comma Splices and Other Errors: When NOT to Use Commas:

written by: Keren Perles • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 2/17/2012

Throughout this series, you have learned the various scenarios that require a comma. At the same time, the most glaring mistake is often not the omission of a comma, but the inclusion of one when it is not needed. This article will explain the most common scenarios where a comma should NOT be used.

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    Comma Splices

    A comma is not a semicolon. When combining two independent clauses (or groups of words that can stand alone as sentences), do not just glue them together with a comma. Doing so would create a comma splice. The following are two examples of comma splices:

    • Working with my hands is not just a hobby, it’s a way of living. (incorrect)
    • Charlie believes in the overriding importance of honesty, he never stretches the truth, no matter what is at stake. (incorrect)

    There are four main methods of fixing comma splices:

    1. Replacing the comma with a semicolon

    • Working with my hands is not just a hobby; it’s a way of living.

    2. Dividing the sentence into two smaller sentences

    • Working with my hands is not just a hobby. It’s a way of living.

    3. Adding a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, or so) after the comma

    • Charlie believes in the overriding importance of honesty, so he never stretches the truth, no matter what is at stake.

    4. Adding a subordinating conjunction to the first clause

    • Because Charlie believes in the overriding importance of honesty, he never stretches the truth, no matter what is at stake.
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    Between Subject and Predicate

    Never put a comma between the subject and the predicate of a sentence. Be especially careful about this rule when the subject is very long. For example: Understanding the difference between how various types of people choose their jobs, can be a complex process that requires intense investigation. This comma is unnecessary and interrupts the flow of the sentence.
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    After Coordinating Conjunctions

    A comma should never go after a coordinating conjunction. Many people feel compelled to add a comma after the word but rather than before it, but this is grammatically incorrect. For example:

    • I truly wanted to accompany her but, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it. (incorrect)
    • I truly wanted to accompany her, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it. (correct)
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    Before or After a Series

    Although a previous article discussed the use of a comma between items in a series, this comma should not be misused. A comma should not usually come before the first item in a series or after the last item in a series. For example:

    • I made sure to pack, three bottles of water, a few snacks, and several rolls of toilet paper. (incorrect)
    • Make sure to turn off all the lights, lock the door, and set the alarm, before you leave the house. (incorrect)

When to Use Commas: A List of Comma Rules

Confused by commas? These rules for comma usage will teach you how and when to use commas. Includes information about items in a series, introductory phrases, and comma splices.
  1. Comma Splices and Other Errors: When NOT to Use Commas:
  2. Using Commas With Quotation Marks

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