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12 January 2012

No comma splices, please; we're allergic

Over in the Economist column 'Johnson' (named after the dictionary-maker) they've been debating the dreaded comma splice, leading to a post that begins:
SEVERAL months ago I was surprised to see Arnold Zwicky, a linguist, use a comma splice. A few commenters took me to task for being over-picky. The question came up again in the comments several days ago, when k.a.gardner, a frequent commenter, asked for a post on the comma splice. One of my colleagues quickly replied that "The comma-splice rule is totally arbitrary," and a back-and-forth ensued.
What is a comma splice?  Prof Zwicky wrote back in July
"this is not even a tempest in a teapot, it’s a fuss in a thimbleful of spit."
That's two independent clauses joined only by a comma, or a comma splice, sometimes called a "comma fault".
Pop over to the Economist and have your say, or join in our discussion here. Comma splice.  Pedantry or plain speaking?


  1. Well, having read the many erudite and facetious comments on the Economist site, all I have to say is this: I just want to be able to understand what I'm reading the first time I read it. Comma splices often jar, as the poor wee comma is insufficient for the job it has to do. But they don't bring me out in hives ;)

  2. It surprises me how often we see comma splices in journalism. Call me old fashioned, but 'back in the day' the sub-editor knew how to construct a sentence.