Monday, March 28, 2011

Writing tip: How to avoid those pesky comma splices

A comma splice occurs when the writer combines two sentences with a comma. Below are some examples from the Business Writing Blog as well as advice on how to fix them:

  • Thanks for your help, it's exactly what I needed.
  • I will see you on Friday, I'm looking forward to lunch.
  • These examples are great, thanks for sending them.
  • My interview is tomorrow, we'll see how it goes.

Each of those items is two sentences. Each item is incorrect according to all style guides. 

Why do intelligent people make the error? I think people worry that they will come across too informally or too plainly if they use such short sentences. They believe using 4-to-6-word sentences, especially two of them in a row, can't be professional. 

But two short, crisp, clear sentences in a row are professional and punchy.

Some people call the error a "comma splice," since the sentences are spliced incorrectly, using a comma. To correct the errors, replace each comma with a period (full stop). Or for a breezy tone, use a dash, like this:

  • Thanks for your help--it's exactly what I needed.
  • These examples are great--thanks for sending them.
  • My interview is tomorrow--we'll see how it goes.

This example works better with a period than a dash:

  • I will see you on Friday. I'm looking forward to lunch.

You can read the rest of Lynn Gaertner-Johnson's column here.


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