Style Guide Entry 4: Comma Splice

Language is a powerful tool and has a certain degree of fluidity that allows it to bend and adapt to the given circumstances. The use of language is backed by a set of grammatical rules, in which the execution and enforcement of these rules are heavily dependent on the context. For example, in modern American culture, a primary mode of interaction lies in a flurry of social media platforms. Some of the various social outlets encourage a more relaxed perspective on language which is commonly demonstrated through shorthand messages, abbreviations, etc. Their purposes are more effectively suited employing these tactics over more traditional writing styles. That being said there are circumstances outside of social media that require the correct use of grammar rules such as, research papers, cover letters, and academia papers. The purposes for these kinds of situations include reasons like solely for the decorum or for increased clarification. There is no one answer as to how frequently or infrequently one should employ his/hers best grammatical skills; rather, the usage or lack of should be dictated by both the situation at hand and the receiver’s ability to comprehend the goal of the message.

Comma splicing is a commonly found grammatical error in writings, especially those of novices. It’s a term that describes the junction of two independent clauses joined by a single comma. This is an incorrect way of joining two ideas and have about the same effect as a run-on sentence. Comma splices are usually easily fixed by adding a conjunction word, replacing the comma with a semicolon, or separating the two independent clauses with a period. Committing this specific error is usually caused by the writer wanting to connect two ideas of some sort, whether it be in contrast or support. In joining two independent clauses in one sentence with the goal of either contrasting or supporting them with one another, a more profound difference in the author’s tone or claim can be made than simply having two separate sentences. The syntactic proximity of the ideas provides a more defined relationship between the two.

Another way of the incorporating two ideas into a coherent sentence is by simply making one of the clauses dependent on the other. This simply means transforming one the independent clauses or complete sentences into a fragment that is unable to stand alone if not joined by a complete sentence. This form is used very frequently and comes almost second nature considering many people speak in this fashion in their daily lives. The dependent clause can range from a simple phrase, transitionary word, or an entire thought. An example of a sentence that contains both an independent and dependent clause joined correctly is shown in the short story Harmonia, in which it is written, “Currently he is performing at a local bar, hoping for more people to listen and appreciate his music,” (Chong et al., Harmonia, Storium. Scene 1). The sentence is a glimpse into the life of an up and coming musician Johnny Summer in the 1950s. In analyzing the syntactic structure of the sentence, it can be seen that the first clause is an independent clause, which has a subject, verb and an object. Whereas the second clause begins with continuous verb and offers no subject, of which the verb is the being acted by, deeming it a sentence fragment or dependent clause. The understanding and clarity of the second clause is directly linked to the one before it, which provides the missing the pieces, in turn making it one coherent thought. Another example in this particular reading is a sentence that follows shortly after the one used in the previous example. It states, “You just need to get your name out there, and people will naturally want to learn more about you and your style of music” (Chong et al., Harmonia, Storium. Scene 1). Once again, this quote joins two clauses but instead of one being dependent on the other they are both independent. It should be noted that the conjunction word ‘and’ and a comma are included in between the two clauses, which makes the sentence grammatically correct. Both of these examples provide exceptional ways of combining clauses using a comma while also delivering the messages of both the clauses in the most efficient way.

While a comma splice is easily noticed and maybe a bit awkward, they are usually not that counterintuitive to the meaning of the sentence. This reinforces the fact that not all grammar rules are completely detrimental to the understanding of the content. In taking another look at the short story Harmonia, a comma splice was used in the sentence stating, “His song was available for purchase at the local markets, while he gave them to the radio station in exchange for daily name publicity,’ (Chong et al. Harmonia. Storium. Scene 1). A more grammatically correct way to state the sentence would be to replace the “while he gave” after the comma to “while also giving”. This makes the second clause dependent, while also maintaining the prominent message in each sentence.