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Writing Centre Resource Guide

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Commas

Use a comma when two independent clauses are joined by a conjunction.

       Grammar can be difficult to understand, but it is necessary for effective writing.

A comma is used after an introductory phrase or dependent clause.

       To get a good gradeyou must hand in all your assignments.

       After graduationyour job search can begin.

Commas are used to separate items in a series or list.

       To make bread you need flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and water.

Use a comma between multiple adjectives.

       The sturdy,lightweight backpack was an excellent gift.

A comma is used after transitional words such as however, for example, moreover, etc.

       For examplemany students have difficulty constructing thesis statements.

       Howevera well-supported thesis almost always ensures a good grade.

COMMA SPLICE

Comma splices occur when two independent clauses (which could stand as separate sentences) are joined by a comma only.

Example:

Two independent clauses as separate sentences:

Comma splices are a significant grammatical error. I should avoid them.  

Incorrectly joining two independent clauses with only a comma (a comma splice):

Comma splices are a significant grammatical error, I should avoid them.

Correctly joining two independent clauses (avoiding comma splices):

1. Using a comma + a coordinating conjunction  (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet)

Comma splices are a significant grammatical error, so I should avoid them.

2. Using a semi-colon

Comma splices are a significant grammatical error; I should avoid them.

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Apostrophes

Colons (:) and Semicolons (;)

Use a semicolon to join two independent clauses when they are closely linked together.

I went to the grocery store; milk was on sale.

Use a semicolon to join two independent clauses with a conjunctive adverb, or another transition.

I went to the grocery store to buy milk; however, the sale ended yesterday.

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