Friday, December 14, 2007

Incorrect Punctuation of Two Independent Clauses

From Hamilton College's Seven Deadly Sins of Bad Writing:

The Second Deadly Sin: Incorrect Punctuation of Two Independent Clauses

(An independent clause has a subject and a verb and can stand alone as a sentence.)

Good writers know that correct punctuation is important to writing clear sentences. If you misuse a mark of punctuation, you risk confusing your reader and appearing careless. Notice how the placement of commas significantly affects the meaning of these sentences:

Mr. Jones, says Ms. Moore, is a boring old fool.

Mr. Jones says Ms. Moore is a boring old fool.

Writers often combine independent clauses in a single compound sentence to emphasize the relationship between ideas. The punctuation of compound sentences varies depending upon how you connect the clauses.


The rules are

(a) Separate independent clauses with a comma when using a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, for, nor, so, yet).
(b) Separate independent clauses with a semi-colon when no coordinating conjunction is used.
(c) Separate independent clauses with a semi-colon when using a conjunctive adverb (e.g., however, therefore, thus, consequently, finally, nevertheless).

Examples of Correct Punctuation, Rule a:

1. We all looked worse than usual, for we had stayed up studying for the exam.

2. This room is unbelievably hot, and I think that I am going to pass out.

3. Monday is a difficult day for me, so I try to prepare as much as possible on Sunday.

Examples of Correct Punctuation, Rule b:

1. We all looked worse than usual; we had stayed up all night studying for the exam.

2. This room is unbelievably hot; I think I am going to pass out.

3. Monday is a difficult day for me; I have three classes and two other commitments.

Examples of Correct Punctuation, Rule c:

1. We all looked worse than usual; however, we were relieved we had studied.

2. The discussion is really interesting; nevertheless, I think I am going to pass out.

3. Monday is a difficult day for me; however, I have figured out how to prepare for it.

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