The comma splice

Nerds_feather

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Commas are often used in place of semicolons in American English. We are, as usual, a bit looser with grammar--and in many cases I think this is a good thing (language, after all, is *meant* to evolve with usage).

On the other hand, I often feel Americans (and those schooled in American English) lack proper appreciation of a good semicolon; they are, simply put, addicted to commas.
 

AlexH

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Are comma splices any more acceptable 5 years later?

I've received an edit that tells me I must fix all the comma splices (which I didn't know were a thing until recently).

I like them sometimes and think they suit the voice better than two separate sentences. This is one of my favourites:

"I did that myself, I swear it."

Even out of context, I like it. ;)
 

Teresa Edgerton

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Are comma splices any more acceptable 5 years later?
Yes, and (in my opinion at least) no. Yes, because they are appearing more and more in published books. And no, because I see, more and more, how the over-use of them can lead writers into other and greater errors.
 

TheDustyZebra

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Are comma splices any more acceptable 5 years later?

I've received an edit that tells me I must fix all the comma splices (which I didn't know were a thing until recently).

I like them sometimes and think they suit the voice better than two separate sentences. This is one of my favourites:

"I did that myself, I swear it."

Even out of context, I like it. ;)
This particular one is ok with me, for a vague and difficult reason to articulate. I think because things like "swear" and "promise" and "tell" and such have a close relationship to the other half of the sentence that it's really just the same thing repeated. (Err... I said it was difficult to articulate.) The test there is whether you can turn it around (mostly) and make one thought out of it:

I did that myself, I swear it.
I swear I did that myself.

In this case, "I did that myself" is the "it" being sworn to. Same as if you left "it" off entirely.

The sort of comma splice that's wrong is where there are two thoughts or two actions run together by a comma.
 

AlexH

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Feedback from another American editor (abridged!): "Comma splices are ALWAYS incorrect. They MUST have either a conjunction or a semi-colon."

Otherwise they're a cross (often 3 and you're out) when editors of pro publications are reading slush.

Sorted for me, anyway. A semi-colon goes in my example above. I used to overuse them. There are people who hate the sight of a semi-colon, of course.

And I said "American" editor as I wondered if comma usage differs between British and American English - there's still a controversy in the UK over the Oxford comma. At school, we were told never to use a comma before an "and." Comma splices seem to divide opinion on both sides of the Atlantic.

All these rules make me want to give up trying to get pro publications. With commas I'm going to attempt to stick to these rules: 13 Rules For Using Commas Without Looking Like An Idiot

I noticed the URL adds what may be a location parameter, so I don't know if those rules will be different in the US! :oops:;)
 

AlexH

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Honestly, write a great story and half the rules go out the window. Don’t let worrying about them get in the way of your voice
Other advice I had was know the rules so you can decide when to appropriately break the rules (comma splices being the exception that can't be broken). Rules are there because you don't want editors to think you're a sloppy writer - that'll lead to a quick rejection.

I agree with you but there are definitely editors who reject stories for not following the rules. Competition in some markets is so fierce that sometimes a great story isn't enough.

Here's what thewritepractice.com (Liz Bureman) says:
"For those who plead the case for creative use of structure and punctuation, I understand where you are coming from.

However, as Grammar Girl so eloquently states in her blog condemning the comma splice, you are not Cormac McCarthy.

Do not arbitrarily throw the rules of grammar to the wind. Believe it or not, people pay attention to those things."

In related news, is this a comma splice?

"Sophia comes downstairs, wearing too much perfume as usual."
 

TheDustyZebra

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In related news, is this a comma splice?

"Sophia comes downstairs, wearing too much perfume as usual."
No. "Wearing too much perfume as usual" is not a sentence on its own. It would be a comma splice if it said, "Sophia comes downstairs, she is wearing too much perfume as usual."
 

Jo Zebedee

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No. "Wearing too much perfume as usual" is not a sentence on its own. It would be a comma splice if it said, "Sophia comes downstairs, she is wearing too much perfume as usual."
Seconding what Dusty says here.

I challenge you to lift any book and not find a rule broken. I used a perfectly grammatical sentence at the start of Heir and there were so many complaints about the semi colons in it I eventually changed it.
For every one of your editor comments there are others to the contrary. It’s entirely up to the writer how they approach writing.

I know grammar rules. I choose to break them sometimes. If that is at the loss of a pro sale so be it because getting one is a crap shoot anyway and when I do get them I’d want them to be for a Jo Zebedee story, not something different to meet grammatical rules.

I’m not arguing your choice by the way - I am challenging the importance you place on it and that it is not to do with how you write but rather where you might sell. I know no one whose writing is improved when that is the case :(
 

AlexH

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Thank you both so much! :)

You don't have to worry - a story hasn't become not an Alex Harford story because I've adhered to grammatical rules. I stick to my guns if I have a different vision for a story, whether it's a grammatical rule or major plot point. I've fixed comma splices in the story I mentioned, and have a slight concern that there are too many consecutive short sentences, but I'll figure it out.

Please don't sad face because of something I've posted Jo Zebedee. :D The rules are taking some fun out of writing for me, but I'll see how I get on in the next couple of weeks. I haven't worked hard without later thinking I've improved a story... yet!
 

AlexH

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So now I'm aware of them, I'm spotting them! This is from Brian Evenson; a well-known, award winning short story author:

Though there were only seven men, not counting himself and Grimur, there had already been a fight, a drunken one.

That's difficult to read, and I think should have been two separate comma-spliced sentences at least! :)
 

tinkerdan

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Though I agree that seems awkward:

Though there were only seven men, not counting himself and Grimur, there had already been a fight, a drunken one.

You can break it down to.
Though there were only seven men, there had already been a fight.
Which is fine.
The added inside those commas are just further describing the previous portion of the sentence.
There we only seven men, not counting himself and Grimur.
There had already been a fight, a drunken one.

It's the addition of Though that makes the first part incomplete.
Though there were only seven men, not counting himself and Grimur.
...is missing something. However it might now be out of context and there might be a sentence above that would make it sound more complete as written.

However, standing alone, it would almost be like starting the sentence and new paragraph with So.
So there were only seven men, not counting himself and Grimur.
You could do that; however I'd think twice before I did.
 

AlexH

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Without thinking about it too much, I'd do this:

Not counting himself and Grimur, there were only seven men. There had already been a drunken fight.
 

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