Part of my Master of Fine Arts in fiction offered the opportunity to work as a teaching apprentice and later, an adjunct, in college composition courses. For three semesters, I commuted three hours each way to sit in on, and teach, courses for college students learning how to become stronger readers and writers.
The most common grammatical error I came across was the comma splice. This sneaky devil has appeared outside of academia, too. I’ve seen it on websites, in business publications, and even in a novel.
The instance that stood out the most to me was actually a sentence that was both a run-on and spliced. It had two comma splices. I don’t recall the exact wording, but it went something like this:
It was a difficult time in my life, I learned a lot about change and how to cope with it, I know I can tackle everything college has to throw at me.
A comma splice is when two (or more) independent sentences are separated only by a comma, as in the example above. Basically, it’s an example of glueing the sentence parts together in a way that can confuse the reader.
Comma splices present a unique problem for readers: They make it unclear which clauses or phrases contain the most important information.
You’re probably thinking that unless someone is a grammar guru, they’re not going to care. The truth is that while, yes, some readers might not notice and/or care, there are readers who will notice, and not in a positive way.Continue reading