Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Grammar Grind~Comma Splices

Ahh, summer is unofficially over. Labor Day has passed and its back to school time. This is my New Year's. Maybe its the former teacher in me. September has always been the month I make my own resolutions, start anew.

This school year I will be brushing up on my GRAMMAR. I received some interesting contest results last week. One judge said that once I have a better grasp of the English Language she is sure my MS will improve.

*GULP* Gees, thanks lady. Why do I feel like Sister Edward William was the judge? I can see her standing there with her pointer making me diagram sentences until my arm falls off. But those Nuns were onto something apparently. I should've paid more attention to my Voyages in English textbook rather than checking my teased out Bon Jovi hair and electric blue mascara.

Wikipedia defines grammar as: In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of sentences, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics, and pragmatics. Linguists do not normally use the term to refer to orthographical rules, although usage books and style guides that call themselves grammars may also refer to spelling and punctuation.

BORING. YAWN. No wonder I spent more time on my hair back then.

My recent trip down Grammar memory lane was for those run-on sentences, the ones that Judge found so annoying. Apparently my gaffe was the COMMA SPLICE. Ouch, sounds painful.

I got this from http://chompchomp.com/csfs01/csfs01.htm. It's a great site created for classrooms. For us, it's perfect. Below is an exercise from their site.

Here is the deifinition of a comma splice and why it's so bad:

A comma splice contains two main clauses illegally joined by a comma. The problem looks like this:

main clause + , + main clause =  :(

A fused sentence, on the other hand, contains two main clauses illegally run together with no punctuation whatsoever. The problem looks like this:

main clause + Ø + main clause = :( 

As a writer, you must keep in mind that comma splices and fused sentences make you look like an amateur. They tell your reader that you cannot control the construction of a sentence, the most basic building block of a piece of writing. Learning to identify comma splices and fused sentences is the first step to fixing the problem.


Julie is a real hypochondriac when her stomach hurts, she is certain that she has a bleeding ulcer, and if she has a backache, she believes that she has cancer of the spine.

For a sentence to be a comma splice, you must have two complete sentences joined with a comma. In the example above, there is no comma. Julie is a real hypochondriac is one sentence. When her stomach hurts, she is certain ... begins the second sentence. Because there is only empty space between the two, you should call this error a fused sentence.

Remember that both comma splices and fused sentences are major errors. They make your reader think that you cannot write a correct sentence. Because the sentence is the most basic building block of a piece of writing, comma splices and fused sentences make you look like an amateur!

To fix the problem above, you could put a period after hypochondriac and begin when with a capital W.

Julie is a real hypochondriac. When her stomach hurts, she is certain that she has a bleeding ulcer, and if she has a backache, she believes that she has cancer of the spine.

Head over to their site and see how well you do.

I AM NO GRAMMAR GURU. I will be getting a refresher with you, summoning years of Catholic School lessons. Tune in Sunday for more of the GRAMMAR GRIND. What topics would you like me to cover next?


  1. Awesome. VERY enlightening. I'm some what of a grammar murderess. I suck! But this was very helpful.


  2. very helpful...I got one for you...when do you start a new paragraph? I know it's when you start a different topic, but what counts as a new topic? Some books have me confused

  3. Thanks for the lesson, Charli Mac. Sometimes the rules have to be deeply embedded before we can routinely follow them i look forward to the next lesson.

  4. Kris, I've always thought of it as a conversation. You start a new paragraph where you would either pause, or where the other person would feel comfortable butting in. It's the same concept as the comma (being a pause) but on a much larger scale. Important to keep in mind when you get to dialog spacing and single line paragraphs and so forth.

  5. Good one. Splices and fuses are not a problem for me, but I didn't know the actual rule or term. I tend to write shorter sentences naturally. I check, and anything over 20 words, I automatically evaluate. I think that eliminates most instances that a fuse or splice would be used.

    I can't think of anything grammar-wise that I do struggle with right this moment. I can't wait to see what's next though.

  6. Great post. LOL, I like how a comma splice is said to be two main clauses ILLEGALLY joined together by a comma. Does that mean we get tossed in the slammer for using a comma splice????

  7. I have a problem with semi-colons. I hate them so I try to avoid them. everytime I've used one, someone points out that it's wrong.
    Grrrr, how can something so small make me so mad?

  8. Great post!! Love the mc hammer pic!! My hubby worked on his car. He is a great person:)

  9. Brenda if you replaced the comma in a spliced sentence with a semicolon - that would be legal. A semicolon is used to join two complete sentences that are closely related or in direct contrast. So, almost every spliced sentence in the exercises would have been proper if a semicolon had been used instead of the comma.

  10. Penijo, are you really Sister Edward William? LOL.

    Brenda, I am so in comma splice jail already. For what JC calls being a grammar murderess.

    Kris, paragraph breaks are tough, especially with dialogue. Great topic for next time. welcometotheasylum made some good points.

    Semicolons, grr. Yes, they would make most of the sentences in the exercise correct but it goes back to reading your sentence aloud. What gives the inflection you want, a pause or a break. When I first started getting serious about writing I heard from so many peeps that semicolons in fiction are big no, no's. All chiefs- no Indians apparently.

    Mart, we were separated in 1989? Were we BFF's in another dimension? NKOTB, MC HAMMER? Lordy. My mom MADE me Hammer pants with an actual pattern. Those were the days....

  11. OMG, Penny. That is the first time anyone has ever explained it so I understand!!! Thank you!!!

  12. Great pics, LOL!

    Thanks for the tips on grammar--always important to review! :D

  13. Thanks for this. Great stuff here!

  14. Great Post ! Love Pic, Thank you for sharing. /\

  15. Great Lesson, This post is very helpful. ^^

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