Finding a British Source on the ‘Comma Splice’

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To the Editor:

In her Oct. 17, 2007, letter to the editor about my online Commentary “No Wiz at Grammar” (Sept. 24, 2007), Lorraine S. Caplan states that the British “consider the comma to be an appropriate mechanism to link two independent clauses. The comma splice is an American invention.”

I’m no expert on British grammar, so I consulted M.R. Amherst Lock, the head of English at London’s Harrow School, who certainly is an authority. Mr. Amherst Lock disagrees with Ms. Caplan: “At Harrow we spend a great deal of time and effort teaching the boys that if two groups of words make sense by themselves (i.e., are complete sentences), then they must be separated by either a full stop or semicolon or colon, or joined by a conjunction; they must never be separated by a comma. … ‘Comma splice’ may be an American coinage, but the avoidance of it is certainly not confined to the States!”

Alan Warhaftig
Los Angeles, Calif.

Vol. 27, Issue 13, Page 28

Published in Print: November 28, 2007, as Finding a British Source On the ‘Comma Splice’
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