Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Splicing It Up

Good afternoon, Literati!  Today I thought I’d take a moment to talk about the comma splice.  A fellow Literati sent me an article from yesterday’s edition of The New York Times entitled, The Most Comma Mistakes.  I thought it was a clever title. 
The comma splice was a close friend of mine in high school back when I believed the comma’s best usage was to add a pause in my writing.  I will admit this, I love commas; but I love semicolons just a little bit more, so it is not often that I find myself in a comma “splicy” situation. 
To review, a comma splice is when a comma is used between two ideas that should really be their own sentences.  Example:
The little girl had a lollypop, the little boy ate an apple. (wrong!)
The little girl had a lollypop; the little boy ate an apple.  (right!)
The little girl had a lollypop.  The little boy ate an apple.  (right!)
The little girl had a lollypop, and the little boy ate an apple.   (right!)
As you can see from the above correct sentences, the comma splice error has an easy fix (or rather, several easy fixes)!  As I said above, I personally like the semicolon.  Just remember that a semicolon can only correct a comma splice if the subject of each sentence is similar to one another.  Example:
They were on a shopping spree; Macy’s was having a clearance sale!  (right!)
They were on a shopping spree; popcorn sounded good.  (wrong!)
In the first example, the second part of the sentence explains why “they” were on a shopping spree and “Macy’s was having a clearance sale” expands on the original subject of shopping.  In the incorrect example, shopping and popcorn have no relation.  They are both two completely separate thoughts.  In this case, the semicolon wouldn’t work for correcting a comma splice, and the sentence should be broken up with a period.
If you would like to read The New York Times article that inspired this blog post, click here.
Do you have a good example of common errors in comma usage?  One of my biggest pet peeves is the absence of the oxford comma...but alas, that’s for another post...
Happy reading and writing!


  1. Oh, how I love the Oxford comma...or rather, I hate the omission thereof. Back in the day, we were taught that it was optional. BLECH!

    1. Optional? That makes me cry! There will be more on this subject one day...

  2. Ah, a matter close to my heart. I correct at least one semicolon-related (semicolonic?) error a day; they're the bane of my life. (See what I did there?) They're so simple but nobody seems to know how to use them! If in doubt, imagine replacing the semicolon with a full stop. If it makes sense it's okay; if not then use a comma.
    Wow, this blog is a great outlet for all the nerdy stuff I would never say in real life... (*sniggers, pushes glasses up nose, types furiously*)

    1. I can't tell you how many people ask me about semicolons!
      More grammar faux pas to come! Rant away! :)

  3. Overuse of commas drives me more crazy than anything else. By the way, the link didn't show up. :)


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