Difference between Fused Sentences and Comma Splices

By: | Updated: Nov-25, 2021

Correcting Fused Sentences and Comma Splices

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If writers can identify fused sentences and comma splices and know how to correct them, they are far more likely to get their messages clearly across to readers.

The terms comma splice and fused sentence refer to punctuation errors that occur only in compound, complex, or compound/complex sentences. And if essay writers can identify these errors and know how to correct them, they can avoid making mistakes that detract from the overall quality of their writing and decrease their credibility in the eyes of their readers.

Difference between Fused Sentences and Comma Splices

Definition of a Run-on or Fused Sentence

Many people mistakenly believe that a “run-on” is an extremely long sentence that would benefit from being broken into two or more shorter sentences. However, this is not the case. In fact, in the novel, Absalom, Absalom, by the late-and-great Southern novelist William Faulkner, there is one sentence that is almost four and a half pages long; yet this sentence isn’t a run-on because a run-on is a sentence that lacks punctuation between two or more independent clauses, and Faulkner’s sentence not only contains punctuation but is also punctuated correctly.

Another term for a run-on is fused sentence, for as the word “fused” implies, when a writer omits punctuation between independent clauses, those clauses become literally “fused” together; for example:

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  • The Atlanta Falcons is Tom’s favorite team he hopes they clobber the New Orleans Saints.

(The first clause is “The Atlanta Falcons is Tom’s favorite team,” and the second clause is “he hopes they clobber the New Orleans Saints.”)

Definition of a Comma Splice

A comma splice occurs when a writer inserts punctuation into a sentence but incorrectly links two independent clauses with only a comma, for example:

  • The Atlanta Falcons is Tom’s favorite team, he hopes they clobber the New Orleans Saints.
  • The Atlanta Falcons is Tom’s favorite team, therefore he hopes they clobber the New Orleans Saints.

How to Correct a Fused Sentence or Comma Splice

Writers can correct fused sentences and comma splices several ways:

  1. Add one of the seven coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so): The Atlanta Falcons is Tom’s favorite team, so he hopes they clobber the New Orleans Saints.
  2. Make one clause dependent upon the other by inserting a subordinating conjunction (when, where, while, after, before, which, although, because, etc): Because the Atlanta Falcons is Tom’s favorite team, he hopes they clobber the New Orleans Saints.
  3. If the two clauses are closely related, insert a semicolon between them: The Atlanta Falcons is Tom’s favorite team; he hopes they clobber the New Orleans Saints. (If the clauses are not closely related, however, do not use a semicolon; for example: The Atlanta Falcons is Tom’s favorite team; Tom is writing the next Great American Novel)
  4. Insert a conjunctive adverb between the independent clauses (however, moreover, furthermore, as a result, then, therefore, etc): The Atlanta Falcons is Tom’s favorite team; therefore, he hopes they clobber the New Orleans Saints. (Note: When connecting two independent clauses with a conjunctive adverb, use a semicolon before the adverb and a comma after it. If a comma is placed before a conjunctive adverb connecting two independent clauses, it creates a comma splice.)
  5. Insert a period after the first clause and create two sentences:The Atlanta Falcons is Tom’s favorite team. He hopes they clobber the New Orleans Saints.

If writers keep these guidelines in mind and make a point of correcting such careless errors as fused sentences and comma splices, readers are far more likely to comprehend, and perhaps even appreciate, the full import of their words.

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