This cartoon is part of a series of comics designed to teach Language Arts concepts. Comma splices are very common, even with experienced writers. They indicate that a writer cannot tell the difference between dependent and independent clauses or that a writer is following the “pause theory” of punctuation (since the two ideas are closely related, the writer feels that a period is inappropriate.)
Students who understand the concept of subjects and predicates can be prompted to look for sentences with more than one subject and more than one predicate.
Teachers may find value in having students use more than one method to fix each sentence. Students can then explore the different meanings that result from each choice. In general, one fix may “sound” better than another, and one solution works best out of all the choices.
Teachers can also use comma splices to teach the meaning behind the various conjunctions. The FANBOYS acronym is a convenient way that students can learn them. Students will learn that the meaning of sentences changes with each conjunction is subtle and not so subtle ways.
Finally, comma splices are an effective way to teach the semicolon, a useful bit of punctuation that many students use sparingly (and often incorrectly.) Semicolons frequently get little attention in many classrooms. However, appropriate semicolon use increases the sophistication of writing and arms students with another tool to better express themselves as authors.
For more entertaining comics on common sentence problems, please check out Grammar Comics: Sentence Problems. Each cartoon covers a common problem students face in writing.
The author of this article is David Rickert, who leads parallel lives as a cartoonist and teacher. When not creating comics out of thin air, David teaches high school English Language Arts in Columbus, Ohio. His witty and engaging cartoons turn abstract and complicated concepts into concrete and concise images to embed content into our long term memories. Let’s face it: he makes boring topics entertaining. Check out his Grammar Comics and more resources to bring life to your ELA instruction at his store.