Combating the comma splice - Richard Gilbert
Right now in the semester, I’m buried in student essays. Hour after hour goes into grading—sometimes over six hours at a stretch, and then there’s reading and class prep. And then more essays, a constant backlog, from busy young writers and revisers. I give them work, and it boomerangs right back. Yet if I suck after sympathy I recall an academic acquaintance’s rejoinder: “That’s a self-inflicted wound.” Sure. But it’s my job. And as a fellow teacher once remarked, “Reading some of them is like getting hit in the forehead with a hammer with each sentence.” Yes, and again, that’s what we’re paid for. And I get to sit on my couch and listen to the Beatles while I grade. I remember so vividly my own dawning awareness of original sin, as an undergraduate, when a professor circled my comma splice. In my memory it’s actually in a blue book—though why even an English professor would bother to correct a comma splice in a handwritten exam flummoxes me. “Don’t use comma splices,” he wrote. I marched right up and asked him what that meant. He explained that a comma wasn’t sufficient to join two independent clauses.