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Hit Parade of Errors In Style: Punctuation. Prepared by Dr. Dena Bain Taylor, University of Toronto, Health Sciences Writing Centre

COMMA SPLICES

A comma splice is the joining of two independent clauses with only a comma.  Here are the rules for avoiding them:

 a. Use a period or semicolon to separate two independent clauses, or join them with a coordinating conjunction.

We started to unpack our things, pretty soon we were ready for the beach. X

We started to unpack our things; pretty soon we were ready for the beach. OK

We started to unpack our things, and pretty soon we were ready for the beach. OK

b. Use a semicolon as well as a conjunctive adverb to join two independent clauses.

Much of the literature advocates stretching preparatory to exercise, however, the mechanisms are not well understood. X

Much of the literature advocates stretching preparatory to exercise; however, the mechanisms are not well understood. BETTER

These are the most common conjunctive adverbs:

however therefore then
therefore    nevertheless accordingly
as a result moreover even so
rather   indeed for example

MISUSE OF COMMA, SEMICOLON, AND COLON

a. Use a comma after each item in a series of three or more.

Many studies indicate favourable results in function, decreased pain and range of motion. X

Many studies indicate favourable results in function, decreased pain, and range of motion. OK

b. Use a comma when you join independent clauses with one of the seven coordinating conjunctions (and, or, nor, but, so, yet , for).

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. X

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. OK

c. Use a semicolon when you join independent clauses without a coordinating conjunction.

Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. OK

Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. BETTER

d. Do not use a comma to separate subject and verb.

His enthusiasm for the subject and his desire to be of help, led him to volunteer. X

His enthusiasm for the subject and his desire to be of help led him to volunteer. OK

e. Use a colon to introduce a list or a long or formal quotation after a complete sentence. Otherwise make the quotation part of the grammar of your sentence.

 

Strunk (1995) asserts that: "Too many programmes are already underfinanced" (p. 87).

Strunk (1995) asserts: "Too many programmes are already underfinanced" (p. 87).

Strunk's assertion (1995) that "Too many programmes are already underfinanced" (p. 87) is based on questionable assumptions.

 

 
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Last modified: 02-11-2013