03 March 2011

Comma splices and how to fix them

Comma splice = two sentences separated by a comma

Rule = comma splices are always wrong

The comma splice is one of the most frequently tested errors on both the SAT (Fixing Sentences) and ACT English. Comma splices trump all other stylistic issues, which means that no matter how good a sentence sounds otherwise, it cannot be correct if it contains one.

Comma Splice: Anna Robertson (“Grandma”) Moses only began painting at the age of 78, she achieved fame as an artist.

Fixing Comma Splices

The three most common ways to fix comma splices are as follows:

1) Add a coordinating conjunction after the comma

Coordinating Conjunctions: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So

Correct: Anna Robertson (“Grandma”) Moses only began painting at the age of 78, but she achieved fame as an artist.

2) Replace the comma with a period or semicolon 

Correct: Anna Robertson (“Grandma”) Moses only began painting at the age of 78; she achieved fame as an artist.

Correct: Anna Robertson (“Grandma”) Moses only began painting at the age of 78. She achieved fame as an artist.

3) Add a participle  

Correct: Anna Robertson (“Grandma”) Moses only began painting at the age of 78, achieving fame as an artist.

ACT English hint: whenever you see answer choices that include a semicolon, a period, and a comma + and/but, you can automatically eliminate all of those options. They are exactly equivalent to one another, and the ACT will never make you choose between two equally correct answers.

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