Comma Splice Exercise (515)

For each pair of sentences, choose the one that is punctuated correctly.

    1.
    These were confirmed and determined unlikely to be the result of clinical record errors; but we were unable to contact the two patients to confirm these findings in independent specimens.
    These were confirmed and determined unlikely to be the result of clinical record errors, but we were unable to contact the two patients to confirm these findings in independent specimens.

    2.
    There is absolutely severe sadness, it is a real tragedy.
    There is absolutely severe sadness; it is a real tragedy.

    3.
    The gold nuggets are artifacts; and they tell a story.
    The gold nuggets are artifacts; they tell a story.

    4.
    Vaccinating him was hard; who wants to make their child cry?
    Vaccinating him was hard, who wants to make their child cry?

    5.
    Squaw Valley has just received more than two feet of snow; however, the amount of snow needed to build the World Cup courses is significant.
    Squaw Valley has just received more than two feet of snow, however the amount of snow needed to build the World Cup courses is significant.

Answers and Explanations

1. These were confirmed and determined unlikely to be the result of clinical record errors, but we were unable to contact the two patients to confirm these findings in independent specimens.
Semicolons are redundant to conjunctions in that each separates independent clauses, so either precede "but" with a comma, as shown, or retain the semicolon but follow it with "however" and a comma. (Or follow "errors" with a period and start a new sentence with "However, we were . . . .")

2. There is absolutely severe sadness; it is a real tragedy.
The first choice has a comma splice: "It is a real tragedy" is an independent clause not preceded by a conjunction, so a semicolon (or a period) is necessary.

3. The gold nuggets are artifacts; they tell a story.
As in the first example in this set of sentence pairs, the conjunction "and" is redundant to the semicolon; choose one or the other.

4. Vaccinating him was hard; who wants to make their child cry?
The phrase beginning "who" is an independent clause, so a semicolon should precede it. A conjunction preceded by a comma can often take the place of a semicolon, but this sentence isn’t appropriate for that solution.

5. Squaw Valley has just received more than two feet of snow; however, the amount of snow needed to build the World Cup courses is significant.
A comma must set "however" off from the sentence it precedes (or follows), but because it begins an independent clause, that clause must be preceded by a semicolon.

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