Comma Splices

Have you ever gotten feedback from your instructor that just said, “comma splice” and wondered how to fix it? This handout is designed as a quick “fact sheet” about this very common grammar mistake and explains how to correct a comma splice in your writing.

What is a comma splice?

Simply put, the comma splice is when two independent clauses are smashed together in a single sentence without adequate punctuation. Usually writers stick a comma between them, and leave it at that. However, more “solid” punctuation, or else tweaking of the clauses, is needed to make the sentence complete and appropriate.

Comma Splice: Science fiction from the 1960s and 70s is fantastic, I have so many favorites from that time.

In this example, we have two independent clauses (see our handout for more information on clauses and phrases): “science fiction from the 1960s and 70s is fantastic” and “I have so many favorites from that time.” Each one can stand alone as its own sentence. When placed together into a single sentence, and separated by no more than a single comma, we get a comma splice (the comma “splices” the two clauses together unnaturally).

How do we fix it?

To fix this sentence, we would have three main options:

Substitute a semicolon in for the comma

Using a semicolon is a great way to add sophistication to your writing, but use them too frequently and your writing becomes wordy and difficult to read.

Example: Science fiction from the 1960s and 70s is fantastic; I have so many favorites from that time.

Add a conjunction after the comma

Using conjunctions is smart, because it subordinates the second clause and makes it dependent and therefore appropriate to combine with the initial independent clause. However, avoid using this technique too frequently as well.

Example: Science fiction from the 1960s and 70s is fantastic, and I have so many favorites from that time.

End your sentence and begin a new one

Ending your sentence and beginning a new one is also great, but if done too often it could make your writing choppy and segmented and you could lack cohesion.

Example: Science fiction from the 1960s and 70s is fantastic. I have so many favorites from that time.

NOTE: Each of these three options can benefit your writing differently, so make sure you consciously choose the best option for your particular sentence. Alternating amongst all three methods of correcting comma splices will result in the best writing possible. See our handout on Sentence Patterns.

Below are several examples of comma splices and how to fix them with the three different solutions offered above. We have also identified which revision we feel is the strongest of the three.


Example One

Comma Splice: Science fiction films from the 1960s and 70s are famous for their plot twists, Soylent Green has perhaps the biggest one of all.

Revisions:

Substituting Semicolon

Science fiction films from the 1960s and 70s are famous for their plot twists; Soylent Green has perhaps the biggest one of all.

Ending Sentence

Science fiction films from the 1960s and 70s are famous for their plot twists. Soylent Green has perhaps the biggest one of all.

Adding Conjunction

Science fiction films from the 1960s and 70s are famous for their plot twists, but Soylent Green has perhaps the biggest one of all.

*In this example, the first option is probably the strongest choice, because the two clauses make sense in a sentence together, but don’t need a conjunction to define their relationship.


Example Two

Comma Splice: Films began taking risks with sexy costumes and innuendos when Hollywood loosened their Production Code, Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy may have taken it too far.

Revisions:

Substituting Semicolon

Films began taking risks with sexy costumes and innuendos when Hollywood loosened their Production Code; Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy may have taken it too far.

Ending Sentence

Films began taking risks with sexy costumes and innuendos when Hollywood loosened their Production Code. Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy may have taken it too far.

Adding Conjunction

Films began taking risks with sexy costumes and innuendos when Hollywood loosened their Production Code, and Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy may have taken it too far.

*In this example, the third option is probably the strongest choice, because the conjunction defines the relationship between the two clauses.


Example Three

Comma Splice: Many science fiction films from the 1960s and 70s are getting a facelift, Logan’s Run, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Planet of the Apes, and Solaris are some of the few who have been or will be remade for the 21st century.

 Revisions:

Substituting Semicolon

Many science fiction films from the 1960s and 70s are getting a facelift; Logan’s Run, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Planet of the Apes, Mad Max, and Solaris are some of the few who have been or will be remade for the 21st century.

Ending Sentence

Many science fiction films from the 1960s and 70s are getting a facelift. Logan’s Run, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Planet of the Apes, Mad Max, and Solaris are some of the few who have been or will be remade for the 21st century.

Adding Conjunction

Many science fiction films from the 1960s and 70s are getting a facelift, and Logan’s Run, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Planet of the Apes, Mad Max, and Solaris are some of the few who have been or will be remade for the 21st century.

*In this example, the second option is probably the strongest choice, because the two clauses best convey their information in separate sentences.