Comma Splice: Acceptable or Not?

Like anything else in life, grammar rules adapt and change.

Some say it’s okay to spilt an infinitive, start a sentence with ‘but,’ and end a sentence with a preposition.

My question: Are comma splices becoming acceptable?

I’m finding more of them in novels than I used to, and I’m not sure if this is due to the way publishing a novel has changed or due to a change in acceptable style.

I’d love to hear your opinion.

Written by a person (me 🙂  )who edits out every comma splice she sees.

Thanks for reading . . . and hopefully commenting.

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22 thoughts on “Comma Splice: Acceptable or Not?

  1. This is a question, as an academic writing tutor at the George Washington University, that I come up against all the time and that we’ve begun to debate at our Writing Center. Typically, people’s papers have larger problems to tackle than a split infinitive but I’ve begun trying to distinguish in different circumstances when things are written for stylistic reasons and when they are simply unclear or poorly communicated. It’s my belief that communication of ideas is the key in writing and following traditional grammar rules tends to be the best way to ensure that what a writer intends to say is actually said.

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    1. K.C. Thanks for the comment. Does this mean the Writing Center is thinking a comma splice might be acceptable, or are they discussing the usage?
      I agree that traditional grammar rules help make writing clearer, but I don’t want to sound old fashioned in my writing.

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      1. Primarily, we’re still discussing usage and trying to determine if there might be times when it is appropriate (I haven’t found any yet ;)) You don’t sound old fashioned to me!

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  2. Etiquette is meant to be the oil of social graces so all know what to expect and are comfortable. Comma splices are part of grammar rules to make readers comfortable. Those who are careless with rules, take their readers out of a comfort zone, even if only slightly.

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  3. Personally, I hate them. It’s like slamming the breaks on mid-sentence but still going forward.

    I like that writing fiction allows for certain rules to be broken, such as starting a sentence with the word ‘But’ or ‘However’. Sometimes you have to end a sentence with a preposition. For example: “What did you do that for?” You can’t say “What did you do that?” I suppose you could say “For what did you do that?” but that’s so old-fashioned. Then again, you could eliminate it all together and say “Why did you do that?” It all depends on tone and mood the writer is trying to project.

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  4. Momma Jean lets me write the way people talk to each other. In speech, people DO start a staement with but so if you are writing conversation it should be acceptable. It makes it feel more real. HOWEVER. Momma Jean hates the misuse of proper English so she makes me say We dogs, not us dogs, She also hates the Me and my friend instead of the proper Myfriend and I usage. If we don’t speak correctly and correct the ones who don’t they will never know what is correct.

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  5. •”The consensus is:
    – Don’t split an infinitive if the result is an inelegant sentence.
    – Do split infinitives to avoid awkward wording, to preserve a natural rhythm, and especially to achieve the intended emphasis and meaning.”
    (Pam Peters, The Cambridge Guide to English Usage. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004)

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  6. Kristina, if we’re picking nits here, (1) no use crying over spilt [sic] infinitives; (2) in copyeditors’ US English, your comma after “but” would go inside the quotation marks, not outside; (3) I believe you mean “if…” not “it this is due…” (4) I am commenting hopefully, i.e., as someone who still regards hopefully as an adverb.

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    1. C.V.
      Thanks for reading so carefully. Your comment is why I believe it is better to have someone other than the author proofread a manuscript. I find it difficult to see my own errors. I made the required corrections. Kristina

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  7. The more I learn about grammar the more I learn there are few hard and fast rules. We need grammar guidelines, but a strong writer knows when it works better stylistically to step over the “as a rule” line (and when it doesn’t). I’m not a big fan of the comma splice, but I have seen it used well, when a semi-colon is too abrupt.

    I agree there is a relationship between grammar and etiquette. My favourite definition of etiquette highlights the gracious intent behind it: the purpose of etiquette is to make others feel comfortable and welcome. To me this means accepting others’ styles with a smile although I have to admit it grates on me inside to hear “me and my friend”.

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    1. Jan, your writing is lovely as usual. I like the comparison between grammar and etiquette. It’s a very interesting way to look at grammar and a great way to explain to others why grammar and punctuation are important.

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