Using correct punctuation establishes your professionalism as a writer. When you use correct punctuation, you look like you know what you’re doing and thus establish authority as a writer.
In light of that let’s continue to look at some of the most common punctuation rules. Last week I showed you how to use a comma and coordinating junction to join sentences (click here).
Today let’s look at a way not to use a comma.
Read the following example:
Scott dreamed of being a commercial pilot, he knew he could handle the hard work this goal would demand.
Correct or Wrong?
The answer: Wrong
This mistake is called a comma splice. It means you’ve joined two sentences (or clauses) with a comma, and this doesn’t work.
Let’s walk through the pattern to identify why this is a punctuation mistake. This example contains two complete sentences with the pattern of subject (Scott) and verb (dreamed) in the first clause (remember a clause is just a subject with a subject and verb), and a subject (he) and verb (knew) in the second clause.
Let’s look at three ways to correct the comma splice.
Correction 1: Join two sentences with a comma and coordinating conjunction
Scott dreamed of being a commercial pilot, and he knew he could handle the hard work this goal would demand.
Correction 2: Two separate sentences
Scott dreamed of being a commercial pilot. He knew he could handle the hard work this goal would demand.
Correction 3: Join with a semicolon
Scott dreamed of being a commercial pilot; he knew he could handle the hard work this goal would demand.
Some notes about the semicolon. The semicolon joins two clauses (or complete sentences) with something in common, a relationship. In this case the relationship is Scott’s dream and the hard work of the dream. Note that the letter following the semicolon is not capitalized, and note that the comma and coordinating conjunction (like on Correction 1) are taken out.
Correct or wrong?
- I hope today is warmer, I’m tired of being cold.
- This restaurant is known for its Thai food, but it also has other types of food.
- Meet me after school, so we can go together to get something to eat.
- Zachary hoped his professor would not give a pop quiz, he had not done his homework.
- We piled in the minivan for the ten hour trip to Florida, and hoped the kids we be entertained with their movies.
1. wrong, comma splice 2. correct 3. correct 4. wrong comma splice 5. wrong no comma needed
Using correct punctuation is great way to set yourself apart and establish your professionalism, no matter what the writing venue.
Let me know questions you have about today’s post or other punctuation.