5 ways to fix a comma splice

Are you sprinkling too many commas into your sentences? Follow these tips, and start showing the other punctuation marks some love.

A comma splice is simply a sentence in which a comma is called on to do more than is appropriate for the workaday but weak punctuation mark. When a sentence contains two independent clauses—each of which could essentially stand on its own—separated by a comma (or by nothing at all, in which case it’s called a fused sentence), employ one of these five strategies to fix the splice and create a correct connection:

1. “Of course not all companies will survive, it is our goal to give the investing public accurate information on all companies profiled.”

Divide the sentence into two (and set “Of course” off with a comma as well): “Of course, not all companies will survive. It is our goal to give the investing public accurate information on all companies profiled.”

2. “Some buildings hearken back to Main Street, USA, others offer strip-mall modernism.”

Insert a subordinating conjunction to convert either clause into a subordinate clause (one that depends on the other to be the main clause): “Some buildings hearken back to Main Street, USA, while others offer strip mall modernism.” (While could, alternatively, begin the sentence.)

3. “Several people have told me they want to buy a house before they are laid off, otherwise they won’t be able to get a loan.”

Replace the comma with a semicolon (and, in this case, set otherwise off from the rest of the second clause: “Several people have told me they want to buy a house before they are laid off; otherwise, they won’t be able to get a loan.”

4. “At times, it resembled the pitch of a whirring blender, at other moments, an angelic choir.”

Separate the clauses with a coordinating conjunction: “At times, it resembled the pitch of a whirring blender and, at other moments, an angelic choir.” (The final comma and the phrase “an angelic choir” are correct; repetition of “it resembled” is implied.)

5. “Other cops have an alternative solution, they simply arrive on the scene long after the criminals have fled in order to avoid any confrontation.”

Employ a colon in place of the comma when what follows is a definition or explanation stemming from the first clause: “Other cops have an alternative solution: They simply arrive on the scene long after the criminals have fled in order to avoid any confrontation.”

Better yet, to create a stronger impact with the sentence, move the final modifying phrase forward as a parenthetical: “Other cops have an alternative solution: In order to avoid any confrontation, they simply arrive on the scene long after the criminals have fled.”

More than one of these strategies is usually an option; each of the sentences above can be repaired with at least two of the methods described. Often, however, depending on the sentence content and structure, one solution will stand out as the best. (An em dash can also be used to set one independent clause off from the other.)

This article originally ran on DailyWritingTips.com.

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