Every year on September 24th, English teachers around the globe rejoice.  It’s NATIONAL PUNCTUATION DAY! Why should we celebrate the overused comma or the misunderstood semicolon? Because punctuation can save lives.  If you’ve visited the VMI Writing Center recently, you’ll have noticed the sign on the wall that says:



Not only will Grandma appreciate your proper use of commas, but your English professors will as well.

Let’s review the most common comma mistake that young writers make: the comma splice.

A comma splice is the result of placing a comma between two clauses (containing a subject and verb).  When you use a comma splice, you are essentially combining two complete sentences together with a comma rather than separating them into their own distinct sentences.

For example:

Hedgehogs make cute pets, they are not cuddly.

You have several choices when faced with a comma splice: add a coordinating conjunction, replace the comma with a period, or replace the comma with a semicolon.

For example:

Hedgehogs make cute pets, but they are not cuddly.

Hedgehogs make cute pets.  They are not cuddly.

Hedgehogs make cute pets; they are not cuddly.


For further information on comma splices and how to avoid them, check out page 404-409 in your book  The Everyday Writer (page number for the sixth edition). The Everyday Writer is a fantastic resource for cadets with questions about any grammar issue.  The Everyday Writer is also an excellent resource for how to properly cite a source in a paper.  It includes the following citation styles: MLA, APA, and Chicago Style.



For online help, visit the following website:

The OWL at Purdue University – Purdue has a comprehensive Online Writing Lab with invaluable information.  The OWL has an entire section of the site dedicated just to punctuation rules. It also has information on citation rules for MLA, APA, and Chicago Style.  This is often an excellent page to visit if you have a particularly nuanced source (such as the “Rat Bible” or an online source).

Now go forth, write well, and remember that punctuation matters: