February 3rd, 2012
There are rumors that Amazon.com will start selling merchandise at brick-and-mortar stores. The following sentence about those rumors illustrates a common punctuation mistake:
“There wouldn’t have to be any [store] inventory, you would simply play with the stuff, talk to a professional …, and have it at your house in the next 24 to 48 hours,” Jason Calacanis wrote in a recent blog post.
The comma in red makes this blogger’s sentence incorrect. Many readers don’t know the grammatical term comma splice but still wince at this particular punctuation mistake.
Comma splices can lower your credibility, including on blogs and in e-mails, but they’re easy to correct. Just ask yourself if you could separate two ideas into two complete sentences rather than with a comma:
- There wouldn’t have to be any store inventory.
- You would simply play with the stuff, talk to a pro, and have it delivered.
Since these ideas are full enough to stand as two complete sentences, they need a stronger punctuation mark than a comma to separate them. The handiest solution to avoid a comma splice is just to type two sentences, like this:
There wouldn’t have to be any store inventory. You would simply play with the stuff, talk to a pro, and have it delivered.
As a rule of thumb, if you think your punctuation may be incorrect, try backing up and typing two shorter sentences. You’re more likely to be correct and easy to understand.
Write It Well’s book Essential Grammar includes two chapters on punctuation. We’ve made all the book’s exercises available as a free download here to accompany the e-book, which is now available on Amazon.com!
Do you have an important document but not enough time to clarify your thoughts and double-check your punctuation and grammar? Just use Write It Well’s editing services to make sure your readers follow your ideas and respect your voice.