Too bad we’re not studying Spanish (or French)

I’ve been telling the class that in twenty years’ time, comma splices will be gone. Everyone will use them, and nobody will think they’re wrong.

Then yesterday F.M. asked why I’m teaching the comma-splice rule if it’s going away.


I’m teaching the comma-splice rule because today is today. Babies born this year (probably) won’t have to deal with comma splices when they’re twenty, but you’re not them.

You’re you, you were born when you were born, and today, in the year 2018, comma splices are still a thing. So I have to teach them, and you have to learn them. Tant pis! (That’s French for You have to learn not to use comma splices in English 110.)

I don’t mind teaching comma splices, by the way. Not at all. The comma-splice rule has always made sense to me.

That said, my view of comma splices changed when I discovered that  the French consider them correct. If French writers can use a comma to join two independent clauses, why can’t we ? 

It looks like Spanish-speaking writers don’t have a comma-splice rule, either. Spanish writers may not even have to trouble themselves over run-on sentences.

I wonder whether punctuation rules are easier to learn in French & Spanish.
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Compound sentence

A compound sentence consists of two or more complete sentences (independent clauses) combined into one:

Toes are chopped off; severed fingers fly through the air.*
Toes are chopped off; [INDEPENDENT CLAUSE] severed fingers fly through the air. [INDEPENDENT CLAUSE]


There are 4 ways to combine independent clauses:

How to join independent clauses (compound sentence)
Important: these methods do not apply to joining a dependent clause with an independent clause (complex sentence)
Comma and FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet)   Toes are chopped off, and severed fingers fly through the air.
Semicolon   Toes are chopped off; severed fingers fly through the air.
Semicolon, “fancy FANBOYS,” & comma
(“fancy FANBOYS” = adverbial conjunctions or conjunctive adverbs)
Toes are chopped off; moreover, severed fingers fly through the air.
Colon The main reason that Zipes likes fairy tales, it seems, is that they provide hope: they tell us that we can create a more just world.*
DO NOT join two independent clauses with a comma! **   Toes are chopped off, severed fingers fly through the air. WRONG!
DO NOT simply run the two independent clauses together! ***   Toes are chopped off severed fingers fly through the air. WRONG!

* source:
Acocella, Joan. “The Lure of the Fairy Tale.” The New Yorker. 23 July 2012. Print.
** As with so many grammar and writing rules, the comma-splice rule has an exception. However, I wouldn’t worry about it for college writing. When you are writing papers for college classes, do not use a comma to combine independent clauses.
*** There are no exceptions to this rule that I’m aware of.

5+2: the canonical sentence (clause) patterns
Independent clause
Compound sentence – how to punctuate
Complex sentence
3 ways to combine the 7 clause patterns