By the time a student enrolls in English 101, the student is supposed to need minimal punctuation review. However, that is often not the case, especially with comma splices. Media publications often use coma splices because journalism is less formal, and frankly, joining sentences with a comma can be stylistic and keep a sentence fluid and less formal. Academic English, on the other hand, is generally intolerant of comma splices. This is the convention of our age, and there is no reason for a grammarian to flout it.
On occasion a student will use a comma splice, perhaps without knowing it. Many times, I’ve noted a deduction and then erased it because the sentence reads so easily and naturally with the comma splice. No corrective measure would improve the sentence and would only render a more wooden reading. I’ve written sentences with comma splices myself when composing and then gone to correct the splice while editing, only to cringe and decide whether to keep the splice or fix it.
If you pen a sentence like Julius Caesar’s “I came, I saw, I conquered” do you really want it to read, “I came; I saw; I conquered.” Come on, who wants a sentence like that? Consider also the sentence, “It’s not a comet, it’s a meteor.” This leaves an element of subjectivity in deciding when a comma splice reads better than any of the correct options. The sentences I used here as examples come from an online tutorial (link below).
However, most comma splices are errors in academic English and a favorite student from English 101 signed up for 102 and brought her draft up to the desk for me to look at. I wanted to say, “You sure are in love with comma splices,” but I refrained and said, “You sure have a lot of comma splices.” She was like “wah wah what?” so I asked her, “What is a comma splice?” She said, “A comma in the wrong place?”
It was time for a little review. I opened a document on the desktop with my usual sentence with which to illustrate: “I went to the store, I bought milk.” We went through the definition of a comma splice and all the options. As she picked up her paper with all my tick marks to the side of lines with comma splices, I asked, “Would you like me to email you the document?” She said with an edge in her voice, “No, I’ll figure it out.”
She sure did. I always love the moments when a student determines to clear away blurry resistance and bear down on a point. It means that fatigue with the error has become worse than the fatigue of figuring out how to do the task properly.