Don't fear the Splice! Mastering ACT English's "gotcha" questions

By Austin

ACT reading section

Comma Splices: The word “splice” connotes something almost foreign. First off, we don’t see it very often. And when we do, it’s usually in the context of a horror movie, or an English class. Same difference, right? Well, actually comma splices aren’t that tricky. They’re one of the most basic and frequent errors that a writer can make—and, fortunately for you, they’re one of the easiest to correct. The ACT gives you plenty of opportunities to do just that, and once you know how to spot them and what to do with them, comma splice questions will become almost second nature to you.

In the English language, and for the English section of the ACT, a comma splice is as follows: an instance of using a comma to link two independent clauses (which should instead be linked by a colon, semicolon, or conjunction).

Here’s an example:He loves cooking, he's great at making curries.”

In Practice

OK, so before we continue let’s be clear. Commas are more of an art than a science. Don’t get frustrated if the right answer doesn’t come to you immediately. Understanding comes with reading, practice, and patience.

Example: I play video games every night, I do so even when I have homework.

The problem? I play video games every night (bad)→ , ←(bad) I do so even when I have homework.

  • The comma separates two independent clauses! (First in green, second in blue)
  • Yes, they’re independent clauses! That means they could stand on their own.
  • On a different note: sound it out
  • Most people already have punctuation built into their speech. Think about it. Would you say the above sentence with just a brief pause in between the two clauses?

How do we fix it? (Corrections highlighted)

  1. Comma, conjunction: I play video games every night, and I do so even when I have homework.
2. Use a period: I play video games every night. I do so even when I have homework. This is the most simple solution!

3. Use a semicolon: I play video games every night; I do so even when I have homework.

  • In your writing, you should use the semicolon sparingly, but should know about them for ACT English

4. Subordinate a clause: I play video games every night, even when I have homework.


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