How to punctuate independent clauses

  • An independent clause is a group of words that work by themselves as a sentence.

  • When joining independent clauses, a common mistake is to use a comma or no punctuation.

  • There are several solutions to punctuate them correctly.

What is an independent clause?

An independent clause is a clause that can stand alone as a complete sentence. For example - Jenny ran the race well. They can also be joined to make longer sentences.

What are the common mistakes when punctuating them?

Most mistakes occur when joining two independent clauses when using a comma (sometimes called comma splicing) or no punctuation (called a run-on sentence).

Incorrect example - comma. Jenny ran the race well, she came third overall.

Incorrect example - run-on sentence. Jenny ran the race well she came third overall.

What are the solutions?

Write two complete sentences, eg Jenny ran the race well. She came third overall.

1. Use a comma AND a coordinating conjunction

Example: Jenny ran the race well, but she came third overall.

2. Use a semicolon

Example: Jenny ran the race well; she came third overall.

3. Use a subordinate conjunction

Example 1: When Jenny ran the race well, she came third overall.

Example 2: Jenny ran the race well, although she came third overall.

Remember...

Although these solutions are all grammatically correct, the one you choose will affect the tone and impact of your writing.

Independent clauses quiz

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Where next?

Discover more about this topic from around Bitesize.

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