Fused Sentences and Comma Splices

Fused sentences and comma splices result from the writer's difficulty recognizing the basic boundaries of a sentence. The errors themselves arise from lack of correct punctuation. To correct these errors, a writer must divide the sentence into its basic components and then use sentence analysis to punctuate it correctly.

Comma splices occur when the writer connects two independent clauses with a comma:

  • The senses can be cured only by the soul, the soul can be cured only by the senses.

The two subjects, senses and soul, are erroneously connected by a comma. Had the writer inserted a coordinating conjunction such as "and" after the comma, the sentence would be mechanically correct:

  • The senses can be cured only by the soul, and the soul can be cured only by the senses.

The writer has several other ways to correct the problem:

  1. Place a semicolon between the two independent clauses.   The semicolon creates an implicit link between the ideas in each clause.
    Example: The senses can be cured by the soul; the soul can be cured only by the senses.
  2. Divide the two independent clauses into two sentences. Note: It is usually beneficial to place an introductory word or phrase before the second sentence; context dictates need.
    Example: The senses can be cured by the soul. Paradoxically, the soul can be cured only by the senses.
  3. Make one of the clauses dependent by adding a subordinating conjunction.
    Example: Because the senses can be cured by the soul, the soul can be cured only by the senses.

A fused sentence can be distinguished from a comma splice in that the fused sentence does not display a comma between independent clauses. A fused sentence is also called a run-on sentence.

  • The conflagration of the Escorial was viewed from Madrid the citizens watched in awe as the menacing palace was reduced to ashes.

Without proper punctuation, the previous sentence is very confusing. With a semicolon, the sentence exhibits maximum clarity.

  • The conflagration of the Escorial was viewed from Madrid; the citizens watched in awe as the menacing palace was reduced to ashes.

Correct fused sentences by using the same revision tools for comma splices.

Prepared by Jason Schiff