A comma splice is an attempt to join what could be two complete sentences with an incorrect device, the comma. In the rapid flow of an early draft, comma splices may gush on the page. To understand what a comma splice is, lets split the term and look at definitions of the parts.
A comma is "a punctuation mark (,) used to indicate a separation of ideas or of elements within the structure of a sentence." That is a separation within one sentence.
To splice is to "join (film or wire for example) at the ends ."
So a comma splice is an attempt to join two complete ideas with the handy dandy comma. Here is an example of a comma splice, followed by five ways of repairing it: Writing a first draft quickly may result in comma splices, which can be fixed in revision.
Solution A) Break into two complete sentences where the comma occurs; comma splices can be eliminated in revision.
Solution B) Replace the comma with a semi-colon if the two complete thoughts are closely related and you want to highlight that relations:
Writing a first draft quickly may result in comma splices; this error can be eliminated in revision.
Solution C) Keep the comma where it is, but following it, add a coordinating conjunction that best fulfills the sentence meaning, like and, but, for, so, or nor.
Writing a first draft quickly may result in comma splices, but this error can be eliminated in revision.
Solution D) Subordinate one independent clause to the other, especially when one is more important than the other, by adding a subordinating conjunction to the beginning of the sentence or following the comma. Commonly used subordinating conjunctions are after, because, before, since, unless, although, until, while, whereas, if, whenever.
Since writing a first draft quickly may result in comma splices, this error can be eliminated in revision.
Solution E) If you want the first sentence to point to, or draw attention to the second, use a colon where the comma is:
Writing a first draft quickly may result in comma splices: this error can be eliminated in revision.
Solutions A, B, C, and D are almost always permissible. However, sometimes one will be preferable to the others. The writer will have to make a judgment call on which solution best fits.
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