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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 PredicateNever 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)
Comma Splices and Other Errors: When NOT to Use Commas:
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.