Linking Simple Sentences

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Using a Comma and a Coordinating Conjunction to Link Simple Setences

Another technique to creating sophisticated sentences uses the comma and a coordinating conjunction to join two independent clauses (simple sentences) to create a flowing sentence.

An independent clause is a group of words containing a subject Opens in new window and verb Opens in new window, and expresses a complete thought.

Commas can link independent clauses only if they have the help of a coordinating conjunction Opens in new window.

Recall that the usual coordinating conjunctions Opens in new window are and, but, or, nor, so, for, and yet.

Let’s see how this technique works by looking at the following examples where two independent clauses create a choppy writing segment.

First Attempt:
  • The students respect Ms. Martin. Similarly, she respects her class.

The choppy clauses form a longer, smoother sentence after being linked with a comma and the simple coordinating conjunction, “and”. Now we have:

Revised:
  • The students respect Ms. Martin, and she respects her class.

Let’s try the method again on the following bit of choppy writing.

First Attempt:
  • Ms. Martin wanted to be a writer. Her fondness for children convinced her to teach.

Here, the two simple sentences express concepts, but you can still combine them into a longer sentence by connecting them with a comma and the coordinating conjunction, “but”.

Revised:
  • Ms. Martin wanted to be a writer, but her fondness for children convinced her to teach.

It is important to remember that this method requires both the comma and the coordinating conjunction to join two or more independent clauses, and that omitting the coordinating conjunction creates a writing error known as the comma splice.

The following example illustrates this common writing error.

First Attempt:
  • The composition is terribly choppy, only a complete rewrite will help it.

This is an unsuccessful attempt by a writer to combine two short sentences into a longer sentence by using a comma.

A comma splice results, making the sentence grammatically incorrect and difficult to understand. To correct this writing error, a coordinating conjunction such as and is needed.

Revised:
  • The composition is terribly choppy, and only a complete rewrite will help it.

Again, we begin with the choppy writing:

First Attempt:
  • I decided to improve my writing. I just didn’t know how.

A writer trying to combine the sentences with only a comma falls victim to the comma splice.

Comma Splice:
  • I decided to improve my writing, I just didn’t know how.

It is important to remember this second method requires both a comma and a coordinating conjunction to correctly smooth choppy writing:

Revised:
  • I decided to improve my writing, but I just didn’t know how.
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