What is incorrect about the sentence below?
Bob was late for work, he hoped he wouldn’t be fired.
You are correct if you guessed that the comma is used incorrectly. It is a comma splice.
What is a comma splice?
A comma splice is two independent clauses (complete sentences) joined by a comma.
In the example above, “Bob was late for work” and “he hoped he wouldn’t be fired” can each stand on its own as a complete sentence.
What are some ways to rewrite the sentence in order to correct it?
1. Use a period: Bob was late for work. He hoped he wouldn’t be fired.
2. Use a semicolon: Bob was late for work; he hoped he wouldn’t be fired.
3. Make one of the clauses dependent on the other: Bob was late for work, and he hoped he wouldn’t be fired.
Wait. Stop. What is the difference between an independent and a dependent clause?
An independent clause is simply part of a sentence that can be, on its own, a complete sentence. It is independent.
A dependent clause is not a complete sentence. It is dependent upon another part of the sentence. It tends to provide additional meaning to the independent clause.
Now look at the corrections:
In the first example, when I used a period rather than a comma, I corrected the problem by turning each independent clause into its own sentence.
In the second example I chose a semicolon. A semicolon implies a link between two independent clauses. The second independent clause (“he hoped he wouldn’t be fired”) is directly related to the first. In this case it is a result of it (“Bob was late for work”).
In the third example I made the second clause depend on the first.. “…and he hoped he wouldn’t be fired” is not a complete sentence. It is a dependent clause joined to the independent clause. This method can imply an even greater link between the two clauses than either a period or a semicolon.
It’s easy to remember! Look at your comma placement. Is it between two complete sentences? If so, it is a comma splice!
Is it ever acceptable to use a comma splice? Feel free to ask me!
I will address other uses and misuses of the comma in future posts.