Instructors often use the editorial notation CS on student drafts to indicate this error. A comma splice means that you have two or more complete sentences in what you have indicated as one sentence. Last week, we discussed forgetting the comma when using a conjunction to join two sentences. This error is sort of the reverse. You have a comma, but no conjunction to go with it. You can recapture a bit of your childhood and review conjunctions here: Conjunction Junction.
If you are editing to try eliminate comma splices in your draft, go through each sentence and look for where you have used commas. Read what is on each side of the comma. If it’s a complete sentence (subject, verb, and a complete thought is expressed) then you have a comma splice.
The easiest way to correct the error might seem to be to place the correct conjunction after the comma. However, that isn’t the only way to correct the problem. You can also use a period where the comma is and split the sentence into more than one sentence. You can also use a semi-colon where the comma is and a transitional expression. Finally, you might find rewording the sentence is the way you want to go. A good deal of you decision depends upon what relationship you want to create between the sentences, which sounds the best, and what other tactics you’ve already used to correct comma splices in other portions of your draft. Here are how some examples of correcting a comma splice would look:
CS: My family always gets together to celebrate July 4th, we have a cookout and watch fireworks.
My family always gets together to celebrate July 4th, and we have a cookout and watch fireworks.
(This is technically correct, but it is a bit wordy.)
My family always gets together to celebrate July 4th. We have a cookout and watch fireworks.
(While technically correct, this may not be the best option if your writing is comprised mainly of short, simple sentences.You want to work for “correctness” and variety in your writing.)
My family always gets together to celebrate July 4th; we have a cookout and watch fireworks.
(This example is correct and the flow of the writing is less choppy than in the example above because the pause indicated by the semi-colon is not as long.)
My family always celebrates July 4th by getting together to have a cookout and watch fireworks.
To celebrate July 4th, my family always gets together for a cookout and to watch the fireworks.
(Both of these examples show options for rewording the sentences into one that is more complex. Note how the wording directs the reader’s attention to specific sections of the sentence. In the first one, the fact that the family always gets together to celebrate the 4th of July is stressed as the important element to remember because that portion is still and independent clause. It would be a complete thought on it’s own. In the second example, the focus is still on the fact that the family gets together, but the emphasis has shifted away from to celebrate the 4th of July and onto that they do it by having a cookout and watching fireworks.)