Comma Splices & Fused Sentences A run-on sentence is created when two independent* clauses or complete sentences are joined together incorrectly. There are two types of run-ons: the comma splice and the fused sentence. Spock, in an attempt to make nurse Chapel jealous, ate six large pizzas, drank a two liter bottle of Pepsi, and danced until four in the morning with strangely green Amazon women who wore big hair and far too much make-up. This sentence is long, but it is not a run-on.
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences *An independent clause is another way of saying complete sentence. For example, “Spock drank a Pepsi” is an independent clause because it has a subject, a verb, and it expresses a complete thought. Spock is the subject. Drank is the verb, and Pepsi is the direct object. Although a sentence does not need an object to be complete.
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences Spock drank a Pepsi he enjoyed it. This sentence is a type of run-on known as the fused sentence. Two independent clauses are stuck together without punctuation. Spock drank a Pepsi, he enjoyed it. This sentence is a type of run-on known as the comma splice. Two independent clauses are stuck together with a comma.
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences Both comma splices and fused sentences are corrected in one of four ways: 1) Insert a period between the two clauses. 2) Use a coordinating conjunction. 3) Change one of the independent clauses into a dependent clause and join them in a complex sentence. 4) Insert a conjunctive adverb between the clauses.
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences Do not correct a comma splice or a fused sentence by placing a lone semicolon between the clauses. The textbook may say that this is grammatically correct, but it results in choppy sentences with weak coherence. This may work in high-school, but in college instructors expect more. Please don’t abuse the semicolon. Otherwise your writing will end up here.
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences The easiest way to correct a comma splice is with a period; however, this isn’t the best way because the period doesn’t relate ideas very well. Spock drank a Pepsi, he enjoyed it. (comma splice) Spock drank a Pepsi. He enjoyed it. (corrected) Even though the sentence is now technically correct, the relationship between the ideas in each sentence could be stronger.
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences The next way to correct a comma splice is with a coordinating conjunction. The seven coordinating conjunctions are the FONYBAS words. This isn’t a real bass. It’s a FONYBAS (phony-bass), so to remember the seven coordinating conjunctions, think about this plastic fish.* *Please see my PowerPoint on sentence variety.
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences For Or Nor Yet But And So The first letters of the seven coordinating conjunctions (for, or, nor, yet, but, and, so) spell fonybas when they are written out vertically. These seven coordinating conjunctions are among the most powerful words in the English language because by changing the conjunction, the entire meaning of the sentence is changed.
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences Spock drank a Pepsi, he enjoyed it. If a coordinating conjunction is used to correct this comma splice the meaning will change slightly for each coordinating conjunction used. In order to use a coordinating conjunction, the sentence must have two independent clauses that make sense together and the relationship implied by the coordinating conjunction must also make sense.
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences Spock drank a Pepsi, for he enjoyed it. This means that Spock drinks Pepsi because he enjoys drinking Pepsi. He does it for simple enjoyment. Spock drank a Pepsi, yet he enjoyed it. This means that Spock drank the Pepsi not expecting to enjoy it, but he enjoyed it anyway.
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences Spock drank a Pepsi, and he enjoyed it. This means that Spock drank the Pepsi and he received enjoyment from it. Two events occurred without much of a relationship between them. Spock drank a Pepsi, so he enjoyed it. This means that as a result of drinking Pepsi, Spock received enjoyment. The enjoyment seems forced upon Spock as if he had no other choice.
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences Saying “Spock drank a Pepsi, nor he enjoyed it” is faulty coordination. The connecting word does not make sense with the other two sentences. Saying “Spock drank a Pepsi and enjoyed it” is a simple sentence with a compound verb. “enjoyed it” is not an independent clause, so “and” in this case is not operating as a coordinating conjunction. No comma is needed in this sentence. It is not a compound, or coordinate, sentence.
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences The next way to correct a comma splice or fused sentence is with subordination, or a complex sentence. One of the sentences must be changed into a dependent clause or a fragment and attached to the other. To change a sentence into a dependent clause, use a subordinating word. Placing a subordinating word in front of a sentence weakens the sentence’s meaning and makes it dependent upon another sentence.
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences Subordinating words include words such as: after before until although if when as once where as if since whenever that because unless wherever while And Relative Pronouns such as: that whatever who(m) whose what which whoever whomever
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences “Spock drank a Pepsi” is an independent clause; however, “When Spock drank a Pepsi” is a dependent clause because it no longer has any meaning by itself. When Spock drank a Pepsi, what happened? So the dependent clause must be attached to an independent clause to have meaning. When Spock drank a Pepsi, he enjoyed it. Dependent Clause Independent Clause
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences If the dependent clause precedes the independent clause, then use a comma to separate the two clauses. When Spock drank a Pepsi, he enjoyed it. If the independent clause precedes the dependent clause, then no comma is necessary. Spock enjoyed it whenhe drank a Pepsi.
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences In a complex sentence, the independent clause is the more important part of the sentence. Important information must be put in the independent clause of a complex sentence. The dependent clause only serves to add extra information as to where or when the event in the independent clause occurred.
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences The last way to correct a comma splice or a fused sentence is with a conjunctive adverb. Conjunctive adverbs are transitional words that join independent clauses together much like coordinating conjunctions; however, since conjunctive adverbs employ semicolons as a part of their syntax, they are a bit like crying “wolf.” If they are overused, the reader stops paying attention.
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences Common conjunctive adverbs include: accordingly furthermore meanwhile similarly also hence anyway however nevertheless then besides incidentally next thereafter certainly indeed nonetheless therefore consequently instead now thus finally otherwise
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences To correct a comma splice with a conjunctive adverb, insert the conjunctive adverb and its punctuation between the two independent clauses. Spock drank a Pepsi, he enjoyed it. (comma splice) Spock drank a Pepsi; hence, he enjoyed it. (corrected) A semicolon must precede the conjunctive adverb and a comma must follow it, otherwise it isn’t a conjunctive adverb but merely a transitional word.
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences Spock drank a Pepsi; hence, he enjoyed it. The semicolon forces the reader to pause and reflect upon the content of the first independent clause. Then the reader reads the transitional word and ponders its relationship to the first independent clause before moving on to complete the sentence. Using a conjunctive adverb is like slapping the reader in the face. If it is overused it becomes annoying.
Comma Splices & Fused Sentences The conjunctive adverb is a wonderful way to get the reader’s attention without shouting! The exclamation mark does not belong in college writing. Particularly because instructors hate to be shouted at by students, but mostly because there are better methods for gaining the reader’s attention.