Reviving a Comma-tose Writer
June 12, 2013
Dear Writing Diary,
My writing is getting comma, comma, comma, comma-fusing as the Culture Club might sing. My comma use seems to be the source of the problem, I’m just not sure why I can’t string all my thoughts about the same topic together with only commas. It makes perfect sense to me, but my readers say that I often create “comma splices” when joining complete thoughts. Everyone is just so very confused about where one sentence ends and another begins, I don’t know how to fix these so called splices of the comma variety. The only thing I know about splicing is that it was the focus of a mediocre Adrien Brody movie about a frighteningly freakish baby. While I do feel comfortable adding and deleting commas with phrases, just as in this sentence, I am so unsure when and how to use commas in compound sentences that I may stop using commas all together, everyone tells me that this is one grammar weakness that has a rather straightforward fix, but I am starting to lose faith in my ability to correct this writing pattern. Can you help me out with this comma-tastrophe?
A Nearly Comma-tose Writer
Your loyal readers are right in telling you that comma splices are easier to correct than you might imagine, especially compared to other complicated (and at times confusing) comma rules. They are also right in their claim that the splices can make reading a text very, very confusing. First, let’s define “comma splice.” A comma splice is when you combine two complete sentences with a comma and ONLY A COMMA. For example, this is a comma splice:
Brody’s Splice is about joining, or splicing, DNA together to create hybrid animals for medical use, the Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon” is about our fear of alienation.
Both of these clauses are complete sentences; therefore, using a period instead of a comma would fix this comma splice! It’s just that simple. Periods separate complete sentences, but that is not a comma’s job. So, the example would look more like this without a comma splice:
Brody’s Splice is about joining, or splicing, DNA together to create hybrid animals for medical use. The Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon” is about our fear of alienation.
However, you don’t always have to use a period to fix your comma splices. Coordinating conjunctions can often help you out as well! For example:
I have never seen Splice, I have heard “Karma Chameleon.” [This is another comma splice.]
I have never seen Splice, but I have heard “Karma Chameleon.” [This is correct.]
Using a coordinating conjunction won’t always be the way to go, but in this particular case, the subject of the two clauses are similar and can be combined with a simple “but.”
Finally, you can fix your comma splices by using a semicolon. Most people shy away from semicolons because they aren’t sure exactly how to use them, but they’re very simple, especially when fixing comma splices.
You’re going to love my Boy George costume this Halloween, it’s much better than last year’s Splice baby costume. [This is yet another comma splice.]
You’re going to love my Boy George costume this Halloween; it’s much better than last year’s Splice baby costume. [This is the correct use of a semicolon.]
A semicolon works here because the second clause is a complete sentence that is clarifying the first statement. A semicolon is meant to combine two complete sentences, and that’s why it’s so easy to use a semicolon when fixing comma splices!
I hope this helps with your comma-flict. You should be out of your comma coma in no time, and before you know it, you will be a comma-fident writer again.
Your Writing Diary