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A major comma use problem for middle school and high school students is the comma splice. Some people never get the hang of using commas when they write. Some people just sprinkle them among their words, and some people place one when they take a long breath. However, these are not good rules to follow. If you are going to use a comma, you need to know the rules to do so.
Avoid Writing Comma Splices
To begin, let me tell you when not to use a comma. One incorrect use of the comma is called a comma splice. A comma splice is when writers place a comma where they need a period, semicolon, or coordinating conjunction and comma.
Some grammar books have them connected with run-ons; however, comma splices are a huge problem for students.
A comma splice is an "illegal move in grammar." Students who understand sports rules can understand this. You just are now allowed to put a comma between two independent clauses.
How to Spot a Comma Splice
The first step to admitting that you have a problem writing comma splices is to be able to find them in your own writing. This means you need to know exactly what a comma splice is.
I will buy a computer, I want a laptop.
There are two independent clauses or sentences in this run on sentence. I want to buy a computer could be sentence. And, I think I want a laptop could be a sentence.
A sentence needs a subject and verb. Also, it should be a complete thought. In the first sentence, I is the subject, will buy is the verb (will is the helping verb and buy is the main verb), and the sentence is a complete thought. After the comma, I is the subject, want is the verb, and the sentence is a complete thought.
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How to Fix a Comma Splice
You have three options to fix this comma splice.
- Use a period: I will buy a computer. I want a laptop.
- Use a semicolon: I will buy a computer; I want a laptop.
- Use a coordinating conjunction and a comma: I will buy a computer, and I want a laptop.
Coordinating conjunctions include for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so
Another Comma Splice Example:
Sharon fed Rex his dog food, he really liked the new brand.
Even though these two sentences are connected, they are not allowed to be connected with a comma. Before the comma, the independent clause sports a subject and predicate:Sharon fed Rex his dog food. Also, there is an independent clause after the comma: he really liked the new brand. You can put a period, semicolon or comma with a conjunction to fix this comma splice.
Sharon fed Rex his dog food; he really liked the new brand.
In the future, avoid writing comma splices by checking that you don't have a comma between two independent clauses. It will make your writing stronger, and it will make your English teacher happy.
- Avoiding Comma Splices, http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/quizzes/nova/nova3.htm
- Run-On Sentences, Comma Splices, http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/runons.htm