Comma Splice

Download Free PDF Worksheets

Worksheet 1 provides an explanation of comma splices, along with directions on correcting them. It includes eight sentences for students to work with. Worksheets 2 and 3 provide 16 exercises each , with ample space for students to write out the answers in complete sentences.

Worksheet 1, Comma Splices, 8 Exercises
Worksheet 2, Comma Splices, 16 Exercises
Worksheet 3, Comma Splices, 16 Exercises

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The Problem

The comma splice is a fairly common error in written English. It occurs when a writer joins two independent clauses with a comma and nothing else. Several well-known writers use comma splices in their writing, and some cultures readily admit the comma splice as standard usage.

In Standard American English, the comma splice is a usage error.

Comma Splices, Fused Sentences, and Run-on Sentences

Some people use the term "run-on sentence" to refer both to fused sentences and comma splices. These two terms refer to two different errors. Try not to conflate (to blend, mix, combine) the two terms.

Definition: A comma splice is a comma that joins (splices) two independent clauses. A clause is a group of words that has a subject and a verb.

The comma splice is a fairly common error in written English, it occurs when a writer joins two independent clauses with a comma and nothing else.

The comma above joins two independent clauses. (An independent clause can stand alone -- and be punctuated as -- a sentence.)

A fused sentence, on the other hand, occurs when two independent clauses (complete ideas) are joined without any punctuation. It is better to avoid the term run-on sentence altogether and use only the terms comma splice and fused sentence. These two terms are more specific and more descriptive.

Examples of Comma Splices

Take a look at the following examples.

Example of an Independent Clause: Robert ate worms.

This is a clause. Robert is the subject, and ate is the verb. This clause is "independent" because it can stand alone as a sentence.

Now let's take another independent clause:

Another Independent Clause: Mary dislikes Robert.

If you take two independent clauses and join them with a comma, you have a comma splice:

Comma Splice: Robert ate worms, Mary dislikes Robert.

What Does the Word "Splice" Mean?

To "splice" means to join, so a comma splice could easily have been called a comma JOIN, but that would have been too simple. Some people get confused and think that the word "splice" means to "separate," as in "split" + "slice" = "splice." But it is not that way.

To splice means to join, and in standard American English, you're not supposed to use comma splices in writing. It is a formal rule. Comma splices are easy errors for teachers and editors to notice.

How Do You Fix a Comma Splice?

  • Punctuate the two clauses as sentences. Use a period. "Robert ate worms. Mary dislikes Robert."
  • Use a semicolon (;) to join the clauses. Robert ate worms; Mary dislikes Robert.
  • Use a subordinating conjunction (because, when, since, although) in front of one clause.

    "Because Robert ate worms, Mary dislikes Robert." Note the relationship that exists between the clauses. It is a cause/effect relationship, and the subordinating conjunction "because" makes that relationship clear.

  • Use a semicolon plus a conjunctive adverb (therefore, then, however).

    Robert ate worms; therefore, Mary dislikes Robert.

    Again, note how the cause/effect relationship is clarified by the conjunctive adverb "therefore."

  • Use a comma followed by a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so)

    Robert ate worms, so Mary dislikes Robert.

The Words You Use Mean Something.

Remember, you can't use words like however and so just because they make grammatical sense. These words mean something.

The words although, however, but, and yet indicate a contrast: I was on a diet; however, I still gained weight.

The words because, therefore, and so indicate a cause and effect relationship.

The words and and then indicate that you are simply adding information.

Use words cautiously.

The Worksheets

For a more detailed explanation and exercises in correcting comma splices, download the free worksheet. The worksheets are in PDF format.

The front page tells the student what a comma splice is and how to correct it. The second page consists of sentences that the student must correct. There is space provided below each sentence, so that the student actually has to write out the sentence, rather than merely identifying an error.

Worksheet 1, 8 Exercises

The following exercises are in the free PDF worksheets. The worksheets may be reproduced freely, and students must write out the complete, correct sentence.

  1. Each sentence below is wrong, it has a comma splice.
  2. Eliza ran to the store, then she bought some candy.
  3. The stock market has moved in one direction lately, it has gone down.
  4. Elvis Presley was a great singer, he was never really accepted by the country music's mainstream.
  5. Computer programs help us live saner lives, obviously the people who write them should make lots of money.
  6. Dubai has built magnificent office towers with luxuries and conveniences, it is considered a great location in which to conduct international business.
  7. Brazil has won several world cups championships in soccer, they are always considered a good team.
  8. The Quaid-i-Azam campus of Punjab University is considered excellent, it attracts many students.

Worksheet 2, 16 Exercises

  1. The legislature had enacted laws enabling debtors to discharge their obligations more easily, the courts put an end to such practices by stipulating that no state could enact such laws.
  2. Every wall was smashed to rubble, the only thing left of those houses was the land and the rocks from the rubble.
  3. My heart broke, the owners had no insurance.
  4. The town looked deserted, the streets were so dark and empty that the only thing we could hear was the wind blowing.
  5. We worked from dusk to dawn, never had so many contracts been written in such a short time.
  6. Money continued to flow in, we started to live the life of the rich, on weekends we ate at expensive restaurants.
  7. The river extended beyond the mountains, we saw the clouds merge with the water in the horizon.
  8. Men and women drink coffee because it adds to their sense of well-being, it smells good and tastes good to all mankind, all respond to its wonderful stimulating properties.
  9. Caffeine supplies the principal stimulant, it increases the capacity for muscular and mental work without harmful reaction.
  10. Like all good things in life, the drinking of coffee may be abused, those having an idiosyncratic susceptibility to alkaloids should be temperate in the use of tea, coffee, or cocoa.
  11. In every high-tensioned country there is likely to be a small number of people who, because of certain individual characteristics, cannot drink coffee at all, these people belong to the abnormal minority of the human family.
  12. Some people cannot eat strawberries, that would not be a valid reason for a general condemnation of strawberries.
  13. Some writers claim for Persia the discovery of the coffee drink, there is no evidence to support the claim.
  14. The Persians appear to have used considerable intelligence in handling the political phase of the coffee-house question, it never became necessary to order them suppressed in Persia.
  15. Residue from a super-saturated solution produces ideal seed crystals for growth in a lab, these crystals may contain impurities.
  16. The need for occupational therapists has grown substantially, therefore more colleges are offering programs in this high-demand field.

Worksheet 3, 16 Exercises

  1. It’s amazing how rapidly technology has developed, when glancing around this crowded campus it’s hard to spot someone who isn’t spaced out on his or her phone or computer.
  2. Technology is just a tool we have, it is how we use it that makes it good or bad.
  3. Jake knew something was not right with the kite, he remembered that he had not attached the tail.
  4. Jake attached the long tail using a larkshead knot, he launched the kite successfully.
  5. The orange delta kite climbed quickly and gracefully, soon Jake realized he had let out the entire reel.
  6. The kite seemed to hang in the balmy afternoon sky, Jake was mesmerized by the experience, he was late to his English class.
  7. Hugo Boss sells attractive men’s sports clothes, their products are upscale and somewhat expensive.
  8. Jean thought that Cynthia would not understand the riddle about making four triangles with six toothpicks, Cynthia solved it after mulling it over a bit.
  9. Caffeine is considered an addictive substance, many people cannot function properly without it.
  10. Bryce Harper was one of the top baseball prospects in 2010, he went on to make the National League all-star team his first two seasons.
  11. Many soccer (football) fans consider Lionel Messi one of the best players in the world, in 2009 he won the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards.
  12. Great advances have been made in the prevention and treatment of HIV, many parts of the world are still ravaged by AIDS-related deaths.
  13. Many HIV-positive people are unaware that they are infected with the virus, for example, in 2001 less than 1% of the sexually active urban population in Africa had been tested.
  14. The Western blot can be used to confirm infection in ambiguous cases of HIV infection, this test is not widely used in developing nations.
  15. Contemporary tests for HIV are very accurate, a single screening test is correct more than 99% of the time.
  16. Lionel Messi may be the best soccer player in the world today, many still consider Pele the best one ever.

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