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How to Correct Comma Splices and Run-On Sentences - English Grammar Lesson

Updated on December 9, 2015

Correcting Major Sentence Level Errors

As an English instructor, two of the major sentence level errors I see are comma splices and fused, or run-on, sentences. In this article, I will give four different ways to correct them, as well as tips on how to catch these errors in your own work.

I drew this semi-colon with Microsoft Paint.
I drew this semi-colon with Microsoft Paint. | Source

What is a Comma Splice?

A comma splice is the joining of two complete sentences with only a comma in-between. This is a major error.

Example: I like that book, I plan to read it next summer.

These are two separate sentences; thus, a comma is not the correct punctuation to separate the two. We will look at a corrected example after first reviewing run-on sentences.

What is a Run-On Sentence?

A run-on (also called “fused”) sentence has no punctuation between two complete sentences. The sentences are thus “fused” together with no punctuation. These “run-on” sentences are so called since they run into each other with nothing to set them apart.

Example: I like that book I plan to read it next summer.

What is a Comma Splice?

Ways to Correct Comma Splices and Run-Ons

1) Use a period: I like that book. I plan to read it next summer.

2) Use a semi-colon to connect two closely related sentences, which would work fine in this case: I like that book; I plan to read it next summer.

3) Use a comma and coordinating conjunction (and, or, but): I like that book, and I plan to read it next summer.

4) Make one of the sentences into a dependent clause, leaving the other as an independent clause: Because I like that book, I plan to read it next summer.

Tips to check for Comma Splices and Run-On Sentences

Read your work aloud. Does the sentence sound like it ends? Listen for the natural end of the sentence. Do you hear a noun and a verb and a completion of the sentence? Do you automatically pause as you end the first part of the sentence? Do you hear the second subject and verb start a second and new sentence? I have found that reading aloud is helpful for many people. Try it if you have trouble with comma splices and run-on sentences.

2011 Grammar Geek

Still confused about how to use (and not use) commas in run-on sentences and commas splices? Review even more with this book that combines grammar with humor!

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    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 5 years ago from Texas

      This is an excellent resource! Thank you :)

      Voted up and useful!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks, missolive! I hope it to be helpful.

    • profile image

      Arlene V. Poma 5 years ago

      Victoria Lynn, I am afraid to take the quiz because my weakness is the semi-colon. Thanks for the reminder that I really have to work on this. Bookmarked, useful, voted up, and AWESOME. Thanks!

    • leroy64 profile image

      Brian L. Powell 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas (Oak Cliff)

      I am not as good at grammar as I thought. I only scored 80%. It is nice to know what I need to work on

    • Cutters profile image

      Cutters 5 years ago from South Carolina

      I aint get not prob wit no engligligish graermer nope. But I love the HUB. Thanks for the info. I am so needing a refresh for I am forgetting so much these days. I may not be on for a few days watch my points go down even more!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks for all the nice comments, Arlene. Go ahead and take that quiz! Be brave! :-)

      Hi, leroy! Just take it until you get them all right. Thanks for stopping by!

      Thanks, Cutters. Always good to see you. Hope you're refreshed, and I'll see you in a few days, then.

    • Cloverleaf profile image

      Cloverleaf 5 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

      I really appreciate all these wonderful tips that you share with us, Victoria Lynn! I need to brush up on my grammar; you are an excellent teacher.

      (Did I do it right?)

      Cloverleaf

      Voted up across the board!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks, Cloverleaf. I appreciate your saying that. I love teaching grammar. And, yes, you were perfect with the semi-colon! Thanks for the votes!

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 5 years ago from Texas

      Great hub. I'm following you now so that you can be my grammar teacher all over again. It has been so long since I have been in school; I know I can use a review. Thanks.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Hey, homesteadbound. I'm glad to be able to help folks brush up on grammar. I'll plan to put out some more grammar hubs soon. I've seen your name around here quite a bit--will have to check out your work soon. Thanks for stopping by!

    • makusr profile image

      Manoj Kumar Srivastava 5 years ago from India

      Victoria Lynn,

      Greetings from MAKUSR. Your hub will be very beneficial for people with English as a foreign language. In India though, much stress is laid on grammar. We have some very good authors here, writing in English. Thanks for sharing.

      Lots of Love,

      MAKUSR

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Greetings to you, as well, makusr. You may find that native speakers of English also aren't perfect with grammar either. Hopefully, grammar hubs are helpful to everyone. It can't hurt to review, anyway. I appreciate your comments!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Excellent hub. I need to be corrected on my grammar at times, and a review is always good.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks,Susan, for the comments! I do appreciate it!

    • mljdgulley354 profile image

      mljdgulley354 5 years ago

      Great hub. Thanks for sharing these tips. Commas, semi-colons and apostrophies are a great weakness of mine.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks, mljdgulley! Hope it was helpful. I also have a hub on apostrophes, since you mentioned it. Thanks for checking out this hub.

    • That Grrl profile image

      Laura Brown 5 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

      100% on the quiz but it's much easier to fix grammar when it isn't your own work. I know I have comma splices. But, I've gotten much better at avoiding run-on sentences.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Good job, That Grrl, on the quiz. It IS harder to proof your own work. Just gotta keep working at it. Thanks for commenting and taking the quiz!

    • profile image

      Gabby Mohr 5 years ago

      This helped me a ton. Thanks! The YouTube videos are a very nice touch.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Awesome, Gabby! I'm glad you checked it out!

    • profile image

      Melinda Casto 5 years ago

      Great little quiz. It helped me to remember. Thank you for posting this. Thoughtfully, Melinda

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Glad it helped, Melinda! Thanks for checking it out!

    • profile image

      Ginger Ruffles 4 years ago

      Thanks for the grammar hubs. I'm definitely in need of some review!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Ginger--I'm glad I could help. I love writing grammar hubs!

    • profile image

      Abhijit Bangal 4 years ago from India

      Of late, I have also started writing such guides. I myself is a student of the English language. I am from India. Some of the things were new to me and I had never heard before. Great, great, great piece of info. Just loved it.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      abhi bangal--I am so glad to hear that this hub was helpful. Good luck in your studies of English. Thanks for the wonderful comments.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 3 years ago from Western NC

      Fun tips. I just love reading about grammar stuff. I'm a linguist...what can I say? LOL

      Awesome hub. Shared.

    • Oscarlites profile image

      Oscar Jones 3 years ago from Alabama

      in my english class with Mrs. Murphy, she frowned on using a comma before "and". I like spaghetti, meatballs, and french bread. She said to leave out the comma before the and. my question; is this different than when you use it like this: I like that book, and I plan to read it next fall. Is there a difference I am not getting?

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      CC--Yeah, you're a grammar geek like me! :-) I love it!

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Oh, yes! That's one of my own pet peeves. Yes, I've been accused of being a 'grammar Nazi' on more than one occasion. I see so many of these types of mistakes, even in supposedly professional writing. It seems no one hires proofreaders any more.

      Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Oscarlites--There IS a difference. Your second example shows the use of a comma before a coordinating conjunction such as "and" or "but." You put the comma before and to join the two complete sentences. Without the comma, it's a run-on sentence, although not nearly as major an error as a fused sentence (no punctuation) or a comma splice.

      Your first example is only one sentence listing a series of things. There is much discussion on whether or not to leave out the last comma before "french bread." There are times when a sentence's meaning is different if the comma is left out, so, to avoid confusion, many recommend to always use that last comma (called the Oxford, Harvard, or serial comma) when listing items. I always use it for that reason. It just makes sense.Here's an example. Say a graduate wants to dedicate his speech. Here are two different ways of listing:

      To my parents, Joe Smith, and God

      To my parents, Jane Smith and God.

      See what happens when the comma is left out in a series? In the second phrase, the parents are Jane Smith and God! The first one is clear that the the student wants to dedicate to his parents, some person named Jane Smith, and God himself. :-) I love this example!

      If you want to research that issue further, look up the Oxford comma and the debates around it. Very interesting stuff! At least I think so. Thanks for your comments and question. I hope my explanation helps. :-) Sorry to go on. I just love this stuff!

    • Oscarlites profile image

      Oscar Jones 3 years ago from Alabama

      wow.. Well I just want butter on my bread. I don't even care if its toasted first, or last. However, in a toaster it's not safe to butter before toasting; but in an oven, or in a grill pan, one wants always to spread da butter. Whether you use margarine, or real butter is your choice, be it Parkay, Land-O-Lakes, or Bluebonnet brand. Once it is toasted and on the table, by the way, no one is the wiser! (grade me:)

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

      I thought of another example, after reading Oscarlites' comment--

      I have several cats, and I will tell them, each in turn, "You are my favorite Tigger." (or whichever named cat I happen to have at the moment.)

      However, if I were to insert a comma, "You are my favorite, Tigger." the meaning is totally changed from, "of all the cats that may be named 'Tigger,' you are my favorite of those." to, "Of all my cats, you are my one favorite!"

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Dzy--I totally agree! I've been hired for a few proofreading jobs, as that is something I love and believe in. I'm hoping to build that area for more jobs! Thanks for the comments and votes!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Oscarlites--Butter on your bread, huh? LOL

    • Oscarlites profile image

      Oscar Jones 3 years ago from Alabama

      "By the way" was a throw in since I didn't want to add another "however" into it. But Mrs Murphy most likely woulda had me put the "by the way" at the beginning. that Ive doubled up the adjectives and and such. I could have looked in the thesaurus however. Or; just left it out!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Definitely, Dzy! The thought today is that we should just use the serial comma all the time instead of just saying we should use it when the meaning is unclear. Great examples!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
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      Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Oscarlites, that's funny. ;-)

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