Before we can fully appreciate the shudder-inducing mechanism known as the dreaded comma splice, we must first define the independent clause. Commas cannot be spliced without the presence of their dastardly accomplice, the independent clause.
The independent clause is complete. It can stand on its own. If you took it out of a sentence and put a period on the end, it would be a complete, though short, sentence.
In the blistering heat, Kara gasps for air in the thick humidity.
Kara gasps. See? It is its own sentence. It has a subject, Kara, and a predicate or verb, gasps.
Outside, the dog scratches at the door-he wants inside the cool house.
The dog scratches.
And so on.
Alright, now that we have established the more basic elements of the written word, we can get into the comma splice.
Comma splice is when two independent clauses are joined with a comma, sans a conjunction.
Never do this. It looks like this:
The dog scratches, he waits for his master.
Dear Gawd that hurt to write.
There are several ways to fix this.
You could add a conjunction, or separate with a period and let these two stand on their own.
The dog scratches and he waits for his master.
The dog scratches. He waits for his master.
Also, note that since the two clauses are closely related, you could even add the em dash, or if you are feeling particularly nostalgic, the semi colon.
The dog scratches—he waits for his master.
The dog scratches; he waits for his master.
So, to recap, comma splice is two independent clauses mistakenly joined with a comma.
Independent clause is a complete sentence—subject and predicate/verb.
To fix a comma splice, add a conjunction, em dash, semi colon, or separate the clauses into stand-alone sentences with periods.
Please feel free to email me with any questions. I can even go further in depth on this subject if you need clarification.
Next post, I will start getting into the different types of clauses and where commas are needed to separate them, and I will continue to cover subjects that deal strictly with writing style.