Last week a comma splice almost got me into trouble at work.
A comma splice is when you link two independent clauses with a comma, creating a run-on sentence. For instance:
- My holiday in Greece was nice, I’m going to go back next year.
Comma splices are often frowned upon by the people who specialise in frowning upon such things. They argue that these commas should be replaced with full stops or semicolons or have coordinating conjunctions added:
- My holiday in Greece was nice; I’m going to go back next year.
- My holiday in Greece was nice. I’m going to go back next year.
- My holiday in Greece was nice, so I’m going to go back next year.
But the fact is that comma splices are commonly used. They have an informal air to them, but in a lot of contexts that’s OK and most readers won’t bat an eyelid.
Sometimes, though, they can get you into trouble.
I’d been proofreading a brochure and there’d been a bit of back-and-forth between the client, who wanted the word ‘through’ taken out of a sentence, and me, who wanted it kept in. The project manager, very sensibly wanting to draw a line and get the thing off to press, emailed the client:
Just had a chat with Tom about ‘through’ and he kept it in on purpose as he feels it reads better, he’s the editor so when it comes to tone of voice or copy style what he says goes.
She meant that to be a vote of confidence in me (which was nice) and an assertion of our standard working processes. But with the comma splice, it could easily have looked as if she were reporting a bit of arrogant foot-stamping on my part. I wish she’d started a new sentence there.
Luckily, no explosions resulted.