EDITING 101: 57 – Comma Splice Blues…

Comma Splice Blues

Many writers have a hard time keeping grammar rules in their heads and/or implementing them correctly when they’re actively writing. Just like I can’t play fetch and edit (or write!) at the same time, you may find it hard to plot and write and keep everything grammatically correct at the same time. So here comes another tip for those self-editing sessions:

Eliminating comma splices.

A comma splice can be difficult to detect because when we talk, we tend to speak in long, run-on sentences without a full stop between ideas, fragments, phrases, or complete sentences. They sneak into writing without detection easily that way, but they’re almost always incorrect unless you’re deliberately using a literary style of writing called asyndeton that eliminates conjunctions on purpose and inserts commas instead. THIS PAGE explains that type of usage and displays the example of “This is the villain among you who deceived you, who cheated you, who meant to betray you completely…….” that was used in Rhetoric by Aristotle.

Some examples of a comma splice are:

  • My dog needs frequent attention, I didn’t have time to write this article.

  • When I go to the store, I need to get apples, do you want to come, too?

  • The sun is really strong today, I need to buy more sunblock.

  • The next article has a lot of difficult information in it, I should start writing it immediately.

As you can see, these sentences make perfect sense when you say them out loud in conversation, but they’re not grammatically correct. In replacing the comma splice, they either need a period/full stop, a semicolon, or a conjunction (and, but, so, etc.).

  • My dog needs frequent attention so I didn’t have time to write this article. OR, My dog needs frequent attention. I didn’t have time to write this article.

  • When I go to the store, I need to get apples. Do you want to come, too?

  • The sun is really strong today and I need to buy more sunblock.

  • The next article has a lot of difficult information in it; therefore, I should start writing it immediately.

Next week we’ll discuss ‘Showing Character Emotion’

To see the index and catch up with missed episodes of this series – CLICK HERE

NOTE:

This series is not meant to be (nor will it be) simple static information.

I’ll be here for each post to answer questions, offer suggestions as necessary, and interact with you.

If there’s something you specifically want (or need!) to see addressed in terms of self-editing, please let me know in the comments under this, or any of the articles of the series.

Susan

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22 thoughts on “EDITING 101: 57 – Comma Splice Blues…

  1. Funnily enough Susan I have come up against comma splices in my own writing (except I obviously did not know what they were) but instinctively adopted your solution of using a full stop in the written text even though it felt like a comma when reading it back. Nice to know I am doing something right. Another great informative article. Thank you.
    PS. You are right in your comment above about Word… Word is great for clear business-like text but as writers that is the very thing we need to work hard to transcend. Of course when we start out, and are learning the trade, we are not exactly aware of this. The tendency is to turn out sloppy writing while thinking we are the new Kerouac. Hopefully with sufficient self editing and some help (i.e courtesy of your good self) we do get better!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Having struggled for years as a college writing teacher to help other writers understand comma splices (“sentence boundary issues”), I became convinced that the real issue, exacerbated by the tendency to write as we speak, is the difficulty some of us have recognizing what constitutes a sentence. I tried many strategies to help students decide whether or not they had arrived at the end of a sentence; nothing ever seemed to work. I find myself falling back on the belief that writers finally internalize writing “rules” and structures through reading, not through instruction. I wish now that I had used more “imitatio,” asking students to express something they wanted to say through translating it into the styles of different writers, so that they could pick up both the voice and the management of syntax. And I agree wholeheartedly: these “grammar checkers” are not the universal answer, not least because they’re so frequently wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It is unfortunate, in some ways, that we don’t write the same way we speak. It would make things a lot easier! But since there are so many unspoken clues when speaking, even when you can’t see one another, it’s difficult to write that way. Tone and emotion are absent, and plus, when speaking, you can quickly clarify something someone says. You can’t do that while writing. So it has to be more precise.

      I think your idea about writers picking up the rules instinctively as they read is a good one. That’s why some of these things are ingrained. You’d never see a native English writer compose a sentence including “purple monsters hairy ten.” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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