Comma Splice | Definition, Examples, & Rules

A comma splice is a grammatical error that occurs when a comma is used to join two independent clauses without a conjunction. An independent clause can function as a standalone sentence, because it has its own subject and verb.

To fix a comma splice, you can:

  • Replace the comma with a semicolon (;) to show that the two parts of the sentence are closely related
  • Replace the comma with a period (.) to create two separate sentences
  • Add a coordinating or subordinating conjunction (e.g., “and,” “although”) to indicate the relationship between the clauses or to emphasize one of them
Sentence with comma splice Revised sentence(s)
Rose likes fruit, she doesn’t like vegetables. Rose likes fruit; she doesn’t like vegetables.
Eli is a volunteer firefighter, Ben is an event planner. Eli is a volunteer firefighter. Ben is an event planner.
Sam studied for his exam, he felt confident. Sam studied for his exam, and he felt confident.

What is a comma splice?

A comma splice occurs when a comma is incorrectly used to join two independent clauses. This is considered a grammatical error because it can affect the clarity and flow of a sentence.

To fix a comma splice, you can use a semicolon, use a period, or add a conjunction.

Using a semicolon to fix a comma splice

You can replace the comma with a semicolon when a logical or sequential connection between the two parts of the sentence is clear. A semicolon is similar to a period, but it suggests a closer link between the two clauses.

The word appearing immediately after a semicolon should begin with a lowercase letter.

Examples: Semicolon joining two independent clauses
  • Ted finished his chores, he felt tired.
  • Ted finished his chores; he felt tired.

Using a period to fix a comma splice

You can replace the comma with a period so that each of the independent clauses is a separate sentence.

This is particularly effective when the ideas of the two clauses are distinct and the relationship between them does not need to be emphasized.

Examples: Period separating two independent clauses
  • Jeremy lives in Alaska, he has been fishing ever since he was a child.
  • Jeremy lives in Alaska. He has been fishing ever since he was a child.

Adding a conjunction to fix a comma splice

You can also fix a comma splice by retaining the comma and adding a coordinating or subordinating conjunction to one of the clauses.

Add a coordinating conjunction

To keep the two clauses together in a single sentence, you can add a coordinating conjunction like “and,” “but,” or “so” immediately after the comma.

This helps you to convey the relationship between the two independent clauses.

Coordinating conjunction Function Example
And Indicate connection He plays the guitar, and he can sing.
But Indicate contrast Sarah tied her shoelaces, but the shoes were still loose.
So Introduce a result Mike lost his phone, so he had to buy a new one.

Add a subordinating conjunction

A subordinating conjunction can also be added to either the first or second clause if you want to keep the two clauses in a single sentence. This places emphasis on the clause that doesn’t contain the conjunction.

Subordinating conjunction Function Example
Although Introduce a contrast Although I’ve been lifting weights, I haven’t gotten any stronger.
Because Introduce a result or outcome Everyone brought their umbrellas, because it was expected to rain.
Once To mean “as soon as” Once the dog starts barking, the baby wakes up.

Conjunctive adverbs

A conjunctive adverb (e.g., “however,” “thus,” “therefore,” “nonetheless”) connects two clauses by using the second clause to modify the first. Conjunctive adverbs are typically placed at the start of a sentence or clause and followed by a comma.

Comma splices often occur when conjunctive adverbs are mistaken for coordinating conjunctions and used in a similar way. To fix this, replace the comma with a semicolon or a period, or use a coordinating conjunction instead.

Examples: Comma splice caused by a conjunctive adverb
  • I don’t speak French, however I wish I did.
  • I don’t speak French; however, I wish I did.
  • I don’t speak French. However, I wish I did.
  • I don’t speak French, but I wish I did.

Is a comma splice ever OK?

While comma splices are not acceptable in formal or academic writing, they are very common in conversational contexts like text messaging, social media, and email, and nobody is likely to object to them there.

They can also be used in creative writing. For example, comma splices are commonly used in fiction to emphasize the speed of a character’s speech or thoughts. This rhetorical device is called asyndeton.

Example: Asyndeton in Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness …”

Worksheet: Comma splice

Test your knowledge of comma splice by using our practice worksheet below. Determine whether the practice sentences contain a comma splice or not.

  1. George has lived in New York, Houston, Toronto, and Paris.
  2. Linda got out of bed, brushed her teeth, and ate breakfast.
  3. The bakery is on the left, the hardware store is on the right.
  4. I want to go to the cinema, however I have to finish writing an essay.
  5. Salman left at four o’clock, so he’ll be here soon, you should stay to meet him.
  1. George has lived in New York, Houston, Toronto, and Paris.
    • This sentence does not contain a comma splice. Here, commas are used only to separate the individual parts of a list.
  1. Linda got out of bed, brushed her teeth, and ate breakfast.
    • This sentence does not contain a comma splice. The clauses “brushed her teeth” and “and ate breakfast” are not independent as they do not include a subject.
  1. The bakery is on the left, the hardware store is on the right.
    • This sentence contains a comma splice, since the comma links two independent clauses. You could fix it by replacing the comma with a period or semicolon or adding a coordinating conjunction.
  1. I want to go to the cinema, however I have to finish writing an essay.
    • This sentence contains a comma splice. Here, a conjunctive adverb is incorrectly used as a coordinating conjunction. To fix this, the comma could be replaced with a period or semicolon, or “however” could be replaced with “but.”
  1. Salman left at four o’clock, so he’ll be here soon, you should stay to meet him.
    • This sentence contains a comma splice. While it correctly connects the first and second clauses with the coordinating conjunction “so,” it incorrectly connects the second and third clauses with a comma splice. One way to fix it would be to replace the second comma with a period or semicolon.
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Eoghan Ryan

Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.

1 comment

Eoghan Ryan
Eoghan Ryan (Scribbr Team)
July 25, 2022 at 1:54 PM

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