There’s a common issue with writing, commas are often used incorrectly. Before I trained as a proofreader, and brushed up on my grammar, I didn’t know there was a problem with sentences like the last one. I see this a lot in manuscripts I proofread, so I thought I’d write a post to explain.
The first sentence of this post is an example of a comma splice. It contains two independent clauses. These can form a complete sentence on their own. They’re pretty narcissistic, and they like to be in charge. If another independent clause has the gall, the audacity, to come into their sentence, they get upset. They are happy to share their space, but only with dependent clauses. These are sections which generally need to be attached to an independent clause to work. I see this a lot in manuscripts I proofread [Independent], so I thought I’d write a post to explain [Dependent].
Knowing about the issue is one thing, fixing it is another. One solution is to transform part of the sentence into a dependent clause by adding a conjunction:
Knowing about the issue is one thing, but fixing it is another.
You could also leave the words the same, but change the punctuation:
Knowing about the issue is one thing. Fixing it is another.
Knowing about the issue is one thing; fixing it is another.
Now you know how to avoid comma splices, but is it ever okay to leave them in? I’d generally advise against it, but there are some examples where they’ve been used to great effect. I came, I saw, I conquered. They also appear more frequently in dialogue. “That’s great, I’ll see you later!”
While we’re on the subject of exceptions: I mentioned dependent clauses earlier, and said they generally can’t be in a sentence on their own. However, this rule is often broken deliberately, particularly in fiction. A lot of writers like to start a sentence with and or similar. And that’s okay! At least in my opinion. Authors use incomplete sentences all the time as well. Dave ran from the tiger. Slipped and fell. Got eaten.
Do you prefer to stick to the grammatical rules, or are you a maverick when it comes to words? Get in touch and let me know!