Talk:Comma splice

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My understanding is that a run-on sentence is not the same as a comma splice; a run-on sentence has no punctuation between the two independent clauses.


Correct: It is nearly half past five; we cannot reach town before dark.

Comma splice: It is nearly half past five, we cannot reach town before dark.

Run-on sentence: It is nearly half past five we cannot reach town before dark.

Chuck 22:15, 12 October 2005 (UTC)

My understanding is that a comma splice is a type of run-on sentence, with some grammarians using the term "fused sentence" to distinguishing run-ons with no punctuation. --Muchness 18:59, 18 February 2006 (UTC)
The following quotation from the Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers clarifies this point. "A run-on occurs when no punctuation at all separates two independant clauses." (5th ed., p. 509) --Davidstrauss 22:47, 12 April 2006 (UTC)

Where is the comma?[edit]

I'm confused. Shouldn't there be a comma in this example of a "comma splice"?

A run-on sentence is a sentence that contains a comma splice.

--hydnjo talk 13:29, 12 November 2005 (UTC)

User comma-splice template[edit]

If you're interested in helping Wikipedia fix comma splices or you find them annoying in general, you can use Template:User comma-splice to your userboxes. --M1ss1ontomars2k4 | T | C | @ 02:14, 19 May 2006 (UTC)

Grammar stub[edit]

Why did someone change this to a typography stub? It's a grammar and linguistics stub. Category:Typography_stubs has mainly fonts in it.; 00:56, 9 November 2006 (UTC)

No it isn't grammar, it's style, as reflected by the content at this point. English grammar isn't controlled that way there's no Academie Englais oder. (talk) 22:24, 4 June 2011 (UTC)

British as well[edit]

The article said the comma splice was considered an error "especially in American English". But I'm pretty sure there's no 'especially' about it; it's definitely considered an error in British English too. So I've changed it, but if anyone disagrees, let me know. (I don't know if the term 'comma splice' was coined in The Elements of Style — if it was, that should probably be mentioned.) Spandrawn 10:51, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

It seems that having comma splices are less taboo in British English...or it could be a coincidence that all the authors cited on this page who use them use British English. Justbobdanish (talk) 22:26, 22 June 2008 (UTC)


Whoever removed my example "Some people like it, some don't" is a humourless spoilsport. Mhkay 17:59, 30 November 2007 (UTC)

But I found the quote from the Jerusalem Bible in this week's mass readings, which is much better!

Mhkay 12:28, 3 December 2007 (UTC)

Eats shoots and leaves[edit]

There is no way that Lynne Truss should be cited as an authority on punctuation or grammar on Wikipedia. Can I suggest that the reference to her book be removed? There must be proper textbooks which this article can refer to. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:03, 19 January 2008 (UTC)

You know, I have to agree with you. Truss is a popular author, not an authority on grammar. I removed the paragraph, which is unnecessary, because it muddies the waters, is written quite flippantly and sillily, and is talking about literary and poetic use, not standard English usage. Here's the removed paragraph, which I have tidied up considerably in case for some reason there's a consensus it should be re-inserted:
Very occasionally, some popular writers are less prescriptive when it comes to well-known very literary authors, though not when it comes to standard English usage. Lynne Truss ("That'll do, comma". Eats, Shoots & leaves. 2003. ISBN 1861976127.  ) observes: "so many highly respected writers observe the splice comma that a rather unfair rule emerges on this one: only do it if you're famous." She cites Samuel Beckett, E. M. Forster, and Somerset Maugham. "Done knowingly by an established writer, the comma splice is effective, poetic, dashing. Done equally knowingly by people who are not published writers, it can look weak or presumptious. Done ignorantly by ignorant people, it is awful."
Softlavender (talk) 03:08, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
I think you are trying to remove opinions that happen to differ from your own. In a matter such as grammar and punctuation, the views of a respected modern journalist are as relevant as those of the authors of dry textbooks written 100 years ago. And it's certainly worth citing respected authors such as Beckett, Forster, and Maugham who have ignored the textbooks (I'd be happier if we could find actual examples from those authors rather than quoting them second hand, but by leaving the Truss quote here, perhaps we can encourage someone to find them). Truss's observations here are pertinent and challenging, and that has a place in the article.
Mhkay (talk) 23:00, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

removed poetry sample[edit]

I removed the poetry sample, which is not applicable to standard English prose usage. Here is the removed text:

The editors of the Jerusalem Bible had no qualms about using a comma splice in poetic contexts. They translate Isaiah 11:4 as:
His word is a rock that strikes the ruthless, his sentences bring death to the wicked. (Cited extract available online at [1])

I have removed this because this text is poetry (and not only that, a tramslation, and one which attempts to match an ancient language). Poetry does not follow standard usage -- there are infinite numbers of comma splices in English poetry, and rarely a semi-colon to be found. Therefore, this has no relevance. Softlavender (talk) 03:01, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

Sorry, but I'm going to put it back again. I think you are trying to remove views simply because you happen to disagree with them. Arguing that these views aren't relevant to "standard English prose usage" seems irrelevant - why should this article be concerned only with standard English prose usage? There is no reason why an article on grammar and punctuation should not explore a variety of usages including poetic usages and translations. The things you have removed meet all the criteria for inclusion: they provide cited evidence that there are writers who disagree with the standard rules, at least in particular well-chosen circumstances, and that is relevant information to include.
Mhkay (talk) 22:55, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

The Buckley Addition[edit]

I'm not happy with the way the Joanne Buckley reference was added. I've toned it down a little, but I think more work needs to be done.

Firstly, views on what is right and wrong in grammar are opinions: they need to be reported as opinions, not as factual statements. This is especially true when there is cited evidence of reputable authors who break the rules.

Secondly the list of seven conjunctions is remarkably rigid. This seems to suggest that I can say "He went to bed, for he was tired", but not "He went to bed, since he was tired". I'm sure this isn't what the text means to say, but that's what it says, so it needs to be clarified.

Finally, I don't think the checklist for use "in your own writing" is encyclopaedic material. I think it should be removed for this reason. If it isn't removed then it needs to be greatly improved, e.g. (a) spelling "appices", (b) reference to "the next question" when there aren't any questions.

Mhkay (talk) 09:38, 13 February 2009 (UTC)

I agree with your comments Mhkay. I fixed the errors you pointed out in the checklist section and re-worded it so it sounds less like a how-to guide. Going by the term "Neither of the errors applies" in the checklist as added by 873ddr, I suspect 873ddr's addition was only part of a larger original checklist; what's here could probably be pared down to a sentence or two for this article. Adrian J. Hunter(talkcontribs) 14:11, 13 February 2009 (UTC)
I'd be happy to see the "Identifying" section removed as well, but I also wanted to note as it stands now that it would also identify a run-on sentence (with neither punctuation nor a conjunction joining the independent clauses) as a comma splice. I'm not aware of any authority that sanctions this definition, although I haven't seen the Buckley reference. Chuck (talk) 23:25, 14 February 2009 (UTC)
Ah yes, I see that you are right, Chuck. I'll remove the section. Adrian J. Hunter(talkcontribs) 03:46, 15 February 2009 (UTC)

I added a comment about although and since to the Buckley paragraph, and User:Muchness removed them on the grounds that these are "subordinating conjunctions" rather than "coordinating conjunctions". A subtle distinction, no doubt. But how does it affect their use in comma-spliced sentences? Are we to understand that it's OK to write "I resign, for I am defeated" and "I resign, yet I am not defeated", but it is not OK to write "I resign, since I am defeated" or "I resign, although I am not defeated"? It seems to me that there is no tenable grammatical distinction between these four sentences, and if the first two are OK, then the last two must also be OK. In fact, it appears to me that ANY conjunction is OK in this grammatical context. Mhkay (talk) 18:56, 18 November 2009 (UTC)

The practical distinctions between the two groups of examples may resolve to shades of meaning so subtle as to be semantic hairsplitting, but if we're writing an encyclopedic article, in my opinion we need to be precise about the use of formal terminology. The use of subordinating conjunctions to make one clause dependent on the other is of course a perfectly fine way to fix a comma splice, and it's given as an example in the Corrections section.
I don't have the Buckley reference to hand, but as I read the article's referenced passage, she's only offering one common scenario; she's not saying that there are no other valid ways to repair a comma splice. If it's felt that this section is misleading or ambiguous, we should rewrite the Buckley paragraph with reliable sources that give a more comprehensive treatment of the various ways comma splices occur and are repaired. --Muchness (talk) 01:30, 19 November 2009 (UTC)
I've made another attempt to fix this by adding a note that other kinds of conjunctions are OK too. Mhkay (talk) 22:33, 19 November 2009 (UTC)

Is this acceptable?[edit]

"I would argue that copying is not a criminal offence, it is merely irresponsible."

I would write this sentence without compunction, but it seems to be against the rules, and not within the scope of any of the acknowledged exceptions. Using a semicolon or dash in place of the comma seems far too strong in this situation; it seems to encourage the "it is merely irresponsible" to be contrasted with the "I would argue" rather than with "copying is not..." Mhkay (talk) 09:59, 23 April 2010 (UTC)

Actually, a colon would be the traditional choice in this example. The second clause elaborates or explains the first clause, a classic use of the colon. I think the tendency to use a comma here is an overgeneralization of the construction "Not this, but that." There is a sense of contradiction, but as the conjunction cannot be used, neither can the comma. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:26, 23 June 2011 (UTC)

"However" is postpositive, I believe.[edit]

It shouldn't start a sentence. Ifnkovhg (talk) 04:31, 5 July 2009 (UTC)

There is no such rule. However, if you can supply a source for your claim, we will consider it. Heron (talk) 09:47, 23 July 2014 (UTC)

Speech determines grammar ...[edit]

particularly in living languages. This is purely a matter of writing style and a pretty trivial one at that. (talk) 22:30, 4 June 2011 (UTC)

I'm not sure what speech has to do with it, since commas don't occur in speech; this is obviously just a writing matter. If you're implying some action should be taken because of that fact, please state as much explicitly. Telanis (talk) 22:20, 13 September 2012 (UTC)

Stylistic Observation[edit]

Wouldn't it be grammatically correct to correct a comma-spliced sentence by adding a comma, a space, and an ellipsis to its end? — RandomDSdevel (talk) 14:28, 20 April 2013 (UTC)

I doubt it, very much so. I think this sentence I just split is a good example of a blatant comma-spliced run-on sentence which even more tolerant readers might frown upon.
Just try it yourself, take a random paragraph out of somewhere (the longer, the better) and glue all sentences in it together demarcated only by commas, and read the result out, I don't think it's going to look particularly nice, by the way, I've just demonstrated it here, it looks breathless and like telegraphese at best, I don't think your suggestion makes it any better, it just reads like inept stream of consciousness, an inexperienced writer might write like this, it comes across as very unprofessional, ... --Florian Blaschke (talk) 03:16, 7 June 2015 (UTC)
Oh, and technically, you are suggesting to add a comma after the sentence-ending punctuation!, ... Nitpicky, but this is to be expected here. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 03:24, 7 June 2015 (UTC)

Better style guide source?[edit]

In the world of professional editing, The Chicago Manual of Style (16th) is one of several modern comprehensive style guides that are in wide use. Strunk & White is extremely old-fashioned and increasingly condemned in professional editorial circles (,, and it isn't even used a style guide by any known English-language publisher, so at least adding the advice given in modern style guides like CMOS would be more relevant and more helpful for this article. (talk) 02:52, 30 May 2013 (UTC)

Yes, it would be great to summarise what CMOS has to say on the subject. Go ahead and do it! Mhkay (talk) 16:53, 30 May 2013 (UTC)

Correcting comma splices[edit]

Correcting comma splices

Simply removing the comma does not correct the error, but results in a run-on sentence (if the sentence is not one already). There are several alternatives to using a comma splice:

  • Change the comma to a semicolon, em dash, or colon:
    • It is nearly half past five; we cannot reach town before dark.
    • It is nearly half past five—we cannot reach town before dark.
    • We cannot reach town before dark: it is nearly half past five.
In the last example, the two clauses must be transposed. A colon often introduces a reason or explanation: the colon becomes a substitute for "because". The clause giving the reason ("it is nearly half past five") must follow the clause that needs explanation ("We cannot reach town before dark").
  • Write the two clauses as two separate sentences:
    • It is nearly half past five. We cannot reach town before dark.
  • Insert a coordinating conjunction following the comma:
    • It is nearly half past five, so we cannot reach town before dark.
    • It is nearly half past five, and we cannot reach town before dark.
  • Make one clause dependent on the other:
    • Because it is nearly half past five, we cannot reach town before dark.
    • It is nearly half past five, which means we cannot reach town before dark.
  • Use a semicolon plus a conjunctive adverb:
    • It is nearly half past five; hence, we cannot reach town before dark.
  • Make the sentence a conditional statement:
    • If it is nearly half past five, we cannot reach town before dark.

I've removed this section from the article because Wikipedia is not a usage guide. —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 01:16, 29 March 2017 (UTC)

Part of understanding what is a comma splice is understanding what isn't a comma splice. I agree the wording and title could use a tweak per WP:NOTHOWTO, but the article is less informative and incomplete if it doesn't provide alternative sentence forms that are not comma splices. Adrian J. Hunter(talkcontribs) 03:34, 31 March 2017 (UTC)
In that case, the best thing would be to find a source that explicitly contrasts comma splices with not-comma-splices for purposes of commenting on the topic of comma splices – not simply extrapolating from a source saying "do this – not this". That would produce an article that's simply a usage guide in disguise. —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 04:45, 31 March 2017 (UTC)
I have to agree, this page is much less useful without the section on correction. Elliot321 (talk) 01:04, 1 April 2017 (UTC)
Please have a look at WP:NOTTEXTBOOK: "The purpose of Wikipedia is to present facts, not to teach subject matter". The removed content is simply an adaptation of examples from Strunk's original The Elements of Style arranged in order to instruct readers in punctuation and grammar. That's not the purpose of an encyclopedia. —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 02:14, 1 April 2017 (UTC)
Maybe we should add that section to a site like WikiSource then, and link it from this page with the usual "There is a page related to this at WikiSource" template Elliot321 (talk) 13:57, 2 April 2017 (UTC)

Original research[edit]

I added the {{original research}} message box to the article – a significant part of the article's content, including additions already discussed on this talk page, is evidently based on analysis, synthesis, or interpretation that may or may not be directly attributable to an existing, published source. I've listed some examples below. Any help finding reliable, published sources that explicitly support these and other statements would be appreciated.

  • Some English style guides consider comma splices appropriate in certain situations...[1][2]
  • Grammarians disagree as to whether a comma splice also constitutes a run-on sentence. Some run-on sentence definitions include...[3] but others limit the term...[4][5]
  • Comma splices are considered acceptable by some in passages of spoken (or interior) dialogue, and are sometimes used deliberately to emulate spoken language more closely.
  • The comma splice is often considered acceptable in poetic writing. The editors of the Jerusalem Bible translate...[6]
  • The famous sentence I came, I saw, I conquered falls into the same category.


  1. ^ Truss, Lynne (2003). "That'll do, comma". Eats, Shoots & Leaves. London: Profile Books. p. 88. ISBN 1-86197-612-7. 
  2. ^ Strunk, William (1918). "Elementary Rules of Usage". The Elements of Style (1st ed.). 
  3. ^ "Run-on Sentences, Comma Splices". Hartford, Connecticut: Capital Community College. 
  4. ^ "Run-ons - Comma Splices - Fused Sentences". Purdue Online Writing Lab. Purdue University. 
  5. ^ Hairston, Maxine; Ruszkiewicz, John J.; Friend, Christy (1998). The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers (5th ed.). New York: Longman. p. 509. ISBN 0-321-00248-2. 
  6. ^ Alexander Jones, ed. (1966). Jerusalem Bible (Reader's Edition). Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-49918-3. 

Sangdeboeuf (talk) 02:04, 29 March 2017 (UTC)

This seems a very extreme interpretation of the rules on original research. You seem to be suggesting that if we find 17 people who all say X, and two who say otherwise, then reporting "most people say X but some disagree" is unacceptable synthesis. That surely can't be what's intended by the rules. Equally, you seem to be saying that if an authority describes a grammatical rule, we can't explain the rule with a simple example unless that authority (or some other authority) used the same example. If we were to follow that principle, it would become impossible to explain complex concepts to a general audience, which is surely what Wikipedia is intended for. Mhkay (talk) 17:11, 30 March 2017 (UTC)
Wikipedia is actually intended to be a summary of accepted knowledge. For Wikipedia's purposes, "accepted" means, at minimum, "published". Any explanations of concepts – indeed, all material – must be attributable to reliable, published sources. Wikipedia's policies are very clear about not allowing any new analysis or synthesis of published material that serves to reach or imply a conclusion not clearly stated by the sources. This applies to examples as much as anything else, which is necessary to avoid undue weight. —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 20:03, 30 March 2017 (UTC)
Furthermore, we have not found 17 sources who say "X", or anything close to it, so that's a straw man argument. —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 20:08, 30 March 2017 (UTC)
I agree with Mhkay. Regarding the first bullet point Sangdeboeuf has listed above, there's nothing wrong with citing a few style guides to support a statement about what style guides say; there's no need to find some meta-source that has already summarised style guides for us. Sangdeboeuf you might be interested in Wikipedia:These are not original research, which describes common-sense limitations about what is considered prohibited original research. Adrian J. Hunter(talkcontribs) 03:30, 31 March 2017 (UTC)
Some points: First, one of the sources in the first example is not actually a style guide. Second, the phrase "Some English style guides" doesn't indicate anything about the relative weight that the cited opinions carry; it would be equally true – and no more encyclopedic – to write, "Some authors have stated that the Earth is flat". Secondary and tertiary sources are absolutely needed to establish due weight, per WP:BALANCE. Third, Wikipedia:These are not original research doesn't address vague qualifiers like "Some", which could just as verifiably be changed to "few" or "hardly any" (since only two sources are cited); and finally, that essay doesn't necessarily indicate what is "considered" original research by the Wikipedia community – it is only an essay, not a policy. —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 04:30, 31 March 2017 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Regarding statements in the article that are "self-evidently true" or "indisputable" and therefore don't need citations: once again, all material must be attributable to a reliable, published source, even if you're sure it is true, especially when it contains interpretation or analysis such as describing a particular example of something as "famous". However, even ordinary examples must be properly sourced to reflect proportional coverage in reliable sources and avoid original interpretations. —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 09:16, 10 April 2017 (UTC) (Updated 13:21, 14 April 2017 (UTC))

Just to clarify, Sangdeboeuf, are you saying that describing "I came, I saw, I conquered" as "famous" is interpretation or analysis that must be cited? Adrian J. Hunter(talkcontribs) 09:47, 10 April 2017 (UTC)
In the context of comma splices, yes. It's also the kind of loaded word that might be described as puffery. But if the phrase is so famous, then finding a reliable source that discusses it in grammatical terms should be a trivial matter. If there is no such source, then the statement's inclusion here is a red flag indicating original research. —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 10:37, 10 April 2017 (UTC)
Calling a famous quote "famous" is not puffery. Did you understand this excellent advice from Flyer22 Reborn? Perhaps you could resolve the tag you keep insisting on yourself using one of these sources? Adrian J. Hunter(talkcontribs) 11:00, 10 April 2017 (UTC)
"Famous" according to whom? How many times do I have to point out that all material must be attributable to a reliable, published source? That is one of the fundamental principles of Wikipedia. But now that you've gone to the trouble of identifying sources, there's nothing stopping you from adding one to the article yourself. A few clicks and you're done. —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 11:51, 10 April 2017 (UTC)
Discussion continued at user's talk page. Adrian J. Hunter(talkcontribs) 01:37, 11 April 2017 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── New section re: "I came, I saw, I conquered" is below. —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 23:58, 22 May 2017 (UTC)

Nota bene* I've removed most of the above examples and replaced them with properly sourced content. —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 21:30, 23 May 2017 (UTC)

Recent edits[edit]

Looking at the changes made to this article over the last couple of months I find them very disappointing. The whole structure and flow of the article has been lost. A new structure has been imposed (by changing the headings) which doesn't fit the content, and the whole thing now feels random and disjointed. I'm very tempted to revert it back to where it was at the beginning of February. Mhkay (talk) 17:22, 30 March 2017 (UTC)

What specific actions/problems are you proposing? Describing some would be more helpful than simply saying "I don't like it". —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 20:14, 30 March 2017 (UTC)
My personal preference would be to roll back the article to where it was. A lot of people put a lot of effort in and I think you have spoiled it. But that's Wikipedia; nothing has permanence, whatever its quality. I'm not going to start an edit war, and I have no desire to redo work that I did five years ago just because someone with more energy has their own views. I will just sigh, and learn the lesson that working on Wikipedia can be very unrewarding. In particular, the constraints you are suggesting of not allowing any kind of analysis, comparison, or evaluation of sources to my mind eliminate any motivation to take part at all. Great encyclopaedias were never written by copy-editors, they were written by experts. Mhkay (talk) 23:11, 18 April 2017 (UTC)
Great encyclopedias may be written by experts, but even experts are expected to adhere to the fundamental principles of Wikipedia. See Wikipedia:Five pillars: "Editors' personal experiences, interpretations, or opinions do not belong". Also, if you will look at my comments under § Original research above, you will see that I am not suggesting "not allowing any kind of analysis, comparison, or evaluation of sources" – I am asking for secondary sources that can be used to support said evaluation. —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 14:12, 19 April 2017 (UTC)

"I came, I saw, I conquered"[edit]

I'm not seeing any sources that explicitly place "I came, I saw, I conquered" in the same category as Strunk's joining of clauses that are "very short" and "alike in form", so I removed the statement to that effect. Usually this sentence is treated as a special example of rhetorical style[1][2] rather than punctuation. Consider this excerpt from Follett's Modern American Usage:

Julius Caesar's well-known dispatch Veni, vidi, vici, usually rendered as I came, I saw, I conquered, is more than a series of related and compact statements. It elegantly condenses some such statement as I not only came but also saw, and I not only saw but also conquered [...] Caesar's sentence and those which are like it in English do not contradict the schoolteacher's ban against what is termed the comma fault or comma splice: the casual use of the comma to join clauses so independent as to show barely a nodding acquaintance. She wrote the song in 1990, it wasn't recorded until 1996 exemplifies this mistake [...] Those who have trouble distinguishing the comma fault from the lawful comma link had better avoid the latter and stick to semicolons, conjunctions, and sentences stopped by periods.[3]

Sangdeboeuf (talk) 13:13, 14 April 2017 (UTC) (updated 05:13, 23 May 2017 (UTC))


  1. ^ Garner, Bryan (2016). Garner's Modern English Usage. Oxford University Press. "climax", "comma splice". ISBN 9780190491505. 
  2. ^ Scott, Gregory M.; Garrison, Stephen M. (2016). The Political Science Student Writer's Manual and Reader's Guide. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 38. ISBN 9781442267114. 
  3. ^ Follett, Wilson; Wensberg, Erik (1998). Modern American Usage: A Guide. Macmillan. p. 269. ISBN 9780809001392.