Editing Pet Peeves: The Comma Splice

Editing Pet Peeves: The Comma Splice

Hello, Rebels, and welcome back to my life.

I asked my friends on social media recently what I should vlog about next, and one person suggested editing pet peeves, so I’m going to talk about my biggest editing pet peeve in the world: bad books. Oh my God, I hate editing bad books. Urgh. It’s just like, “I can fix your spelling and grammar errors, but that doesn’t make your book good! Urgh!”

However, this isn’t really that big of a problem since I elect not to edit those books, so let’s talk about my second-biggest pet peeve: comma splices.

What’s a comma splice? Well, I’m glad you asked, imaginary Rebel viewer who also cares about grammar. Boy. My imagination’s doing overtime today. While I’m at it, I’ll just also imagine that you’ve got an advanced Blu-Ray copy of the entire Hobbit trilogy and you want to watch it with me, followed by the entire extended edition Lord of the Rings trilogy. And tomorrow we’ll do Star Wars.

Okay, back to boring reality. A comma splice is when two complete sentences are stuck together into one sentence and separated by a comma, as in:

“Mary decided to go to the store, she grabbed her keys from the hook by the door.”

WRONG! THIS IS WRONG! Those are two complete sentences. They do not get joined merely by a comma. Who do you think you are, comma? Trying to hold two sentences together like that? You think you’re the Hulk, or Iron Man or something? Or even Hawkeye? You’re not Hawkeye, you’re the extra in the background getting shot by aliens.

In this superhero analogy, the Hulk is played by the part of a conjunction, such as “for, and, so, but”

The full list of coordinating conjunctions is for, and, nor, but, or, yet and so. And there’s an easy way to remember these, because they spell out FANBOYS! Also, YAFNOBS, which could also stand for young adult fiction nobs, so…don’t use that one.


You will notice that the word “then” is not on that list. That’s because “then” is NOT A COORDINATING CONJUNCTION. I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH. “Then” can join a DEPENDENT CLAUSE to an INDEPENDENT clause, as in, “He walked into the room, then picked up his new Doctor Who boxed DVD set,” but dependent clauses are a topic for another post.

For now, just know that you have to use “and then” or “but then” or one of the other FANBOYS plus then, if you want to join two independent clauses. And don’t forget your comma.

What do YOU want me to vlog about, Rebel? Tell me in the comments and if I like it, I’ll add it to the list. But if you ask me to vlog about things I don’t know anything about, like the mineral deposits in Tanzanian river silt, I’m probably not gonna do that.

Thanks, Rebels, and I’ll talk to you later.

Garrett Robinson

Over 100,000 readers have read and loved Garrett's books, like the fantasy hits Nightblade and Midrealm. He's also a film festival favorite with movies like Unsaid, and a tech guru who posts lots of helpful how-tos for writers and filmmakers over at garrettbrobinson.com.


The colon is worth a few words as well. And, of course, the dash. :)


But what about the semicolon? That would have worked here: “Mary decided to go to the store; she grabbed her keys from the hook by the door.”

Garrett Robinson
Garrett Robinson moderator

@ellenmoriah  That is an excellent point. So excellent, in fact, that I made my second Editing Pet Peeves post all about semicolons.

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