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Words of Wisdom

After all, most writing is done away from the typewriter, away from the desk. I'd say it occurs in the quiet, silent moments, while you're walking or shaving or playing a game, or whatever, or even talking to someone you're not vitally interested in.

— Henry Miller


One of the most frequently made comma errors is the comma splice.

A comma splice is the incorrect use of a comma to connect two independent clauses. Here’s an example: “Miss Rev is the First Lady of Aggieland, (comma) she is a beautiful dog.”

Both “Miss Rev is the First Lady of Aggieland” and “she is a beautiful dog” are independent clauses. This means that they can stand on their own as sentences.

Unfortunately, a comma just isn’t strong enough to hold together two independent clauses all by itself, so it needs help! To correct a comma splice, you have three options.

The comma can be replaced by a period, like this: “Miss Rev is the First Lady of Aggieland. (period) She is a beautiful dog.” Periods are strong enough on their own to connect both independent clauses.

Or you can give the comma some help from one of these conjunctions: “for”, “and”, “nor”, “but”, “or”, “yet”, or “so”. You can remember these from their popular acronym “FANBOYS”

If we apply this to our sentence we have, “Miss Rev is the First Lady of Aggieland, (comma) and she is a beautiful dog.”

Another way to fix a comma splice is by using a semicolon. Just replace the comma with the stronger semicolon. Like this: “Miss Rev is the First Lady of Aggieland; (semicolon) she is a beautiful dog.”

Now we don’t want to give commas a bad rap for not being strong enough to hold together two independent clauses. They’re just a little too much for commas to handle! But commas are perfect for holding together a dependent clause and an independent clause. We can see that here: “When I saw Miss Rev, (comma) I took a photo!”

Here we see that “When I saw Miss Rev” cannot stand by itself. It just wouldn’t make sense all on its own! So, it is followed by a comma and an independent clause, “I took a photo”, which completes the statement and makes it whole.

Remember, you can use a comma by itself when it’s helping connect an independent clause with a dependent clause. But, a comma needs some help from a FANBOY when connecting two independent clauses, or it needs to be replaced with a period or a semicolon.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute The University Writing Center, Texas A&M University.

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