How to Fix Comma Splices

You know when your friend is typing you a Facebook message and they run all their sentences together, you can kind of figure out what they’re saying, but it sounds like they’re talking really fast, you’re just like dude BREATHE!

I hate to break it to you, but your friend is suffering from a case of the comma splices.

What’s a comma splice? you ask. How can I save my friend from a slow, painful grammatical death and imminent doom?

A comma splice is when you combine two complete sentences with a comma. Here are a few examples:

I love comma splices, aren’t they so fun?

I ran into my friend in the Sny-Phi caf, we hung out for three hours and I got absolutely no homework done.

My best friend’s name is Sarah, she’s my cousin.

Well, you say, those sentences make perfect sense to me, so what’s the problem? The problem is that commas aren’t meant to join complete sentences. They have a million other ways they can be used, but joining full sentences isn’t one of them.

Here are some alternatives that won’t cause comma splices.

1. Use a period instead

Take this sentence again:

I love comma splices, aren’t they so fun?

The chunks on each side of the comma are complete sentences on their own, so unless you’re joining them with a word like and, but, or or, they have to end with terminal punctuation (a period, a question mark, or an exclamation point). So we can just replace that comma with a period:

I love comma splices. Aren’t they so fun?

Boom, done, easy!

2. Use a semicolon instead

Take a look at this sentence again:

I ran into my friend in the Sny-Phi caf, we hung out for three hours and I got absolutely no homework done.

Again, both sides of the comma are complete sentences. We could replace that comma with a period again and it would totally work. But sometimes it’s more fun to use a semicolon.

A semicolon joins two complete sentences that are related idea-wise. So in this sentence, hanging out for three hours and getting no homework done occur as a result of running into your friend in the caf. It’s a cause-effect relationship:

I ran into my friend in the Sny-Phi caf; we hung out for three hours and I got absolutely no homework done.

3. Add a coordinating conjunction

Coordinating conjunctions are words like and, but, and or. They can join together two complete sentences, and you add them after the comma. So this sentence:

My best friend’s name is Sarah, she’s my cousin.

becomes this:

My best friend’s name is Sarah, and she’s my cousin.

So, now you know how to save your friend from the wrath of the angry comma-splice monsters.

Check out the following resources for more info about fixing comma splices:

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Comma Splices

Purdue Owl’s tips on comma splices

Capital Community College’s guide to comma splices and run-on sentences

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