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Punctuating Independent Clauses and Dependent Clauses


Learning to punctuate sentences can be like learning patterns in mathematical formulas. If you enjoy learning through formulas, the following material will be useful for you. If you prefer to learn from rules and examples rather than formulas, go to Comma Rules. If you learn more efficiently from pictures, go to Punctuation Patterns.


Definitions of Terms for Formulas

Terms used in the formulas and their abbreviations follow:

IC (Independent Clause)a group of words which contains a subject and verb, expresses a complete thought, and can be a sentence
DC (Dependent Clause)a group of words which contains a subject and verb, does not express a complete thought, and cannot be a sentence
CC (Coordinating Conjunction)a word used to connect two independent clauses. Coordinating conjunctions include:
andorbutnorsoforyet


Appropriate Formulas for Punctuating ICs and DCs

The formulas below illustrate correct methods of punctuating ICs and DCs. Each is followed by an example.

Proper Methods of Punctuating ICs and DCs
IC.The research project is woefully underfunded.
IC. IC.The research project is woefully underfunded. Only additional grant money will save it.
IC; IC.The research project is woefully underfunded; only additional grant money will save it.
IC, CC IC.The research project is woefully underfunded, and only additional grant money will save it.
IC; IM, IC.The research project is woefully underfunded; consequently, only additional grant money will save it.
DM DC, IC.Since the research project is woefully underfunded, only additional grant money will save it.
IC DM DC.Only additional grant money will save the research project since it is woefully underfunded.


Teachers' Labels for Errors in Connecting ICs and DCs

Teachers use many technical terms to label errors in punctuating ICs and DCs. The table below lists and then defines the terms teachers most commonly use.

Errors in Connecting ICs and DCs
Fragmentany group of words punctuated as a sentence which does not contain an independent clause
Comma Splicethe use of a comma between two independent clauses that are not separated with a coordinating conjunction
Run-onthe use of a coordinating conjunction between two independent clauses that are not separated with a comma
Fused Sentencesthe use of two independet clauses which are not separated by any form of punctuation


Inappropriate Formulas for Punctuating ICs and DCs

Teachers' labels for errors in punctuating ICs and DCs could be translated into the following formulas:

Improper Methods of Punctuating ICs and DCs
IC, IC.The research project is woefully underfunded, only additional grant money will save it.comma splice
IC IC.The research project is woefully underfunded only additional money will save it.fused sentence
IC CC IC.The research project is woefully underfunded and only additional money will save it.run-on
DM DC.Since the research project is woefully underfunded.fragment
DM DC IC.Since the research project is woefully underfunded only additional grant money will save it.omitted introductory clause comma
IC, DM DC.Only additional grant money will save the research project, since it is woefully underfunded.disruptive comma


If you regularly run into any of these errors in your writing, look through your essays for sentences which use the formula for that error.


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LEO:  Literacy Education Online

This page was originally written by Robert Child for the Writing Lab at Purdue University. It was revised and designed for the Web by Sharon Cogdill and Judith Kilborn for the Write Place, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, MN, and may be copied for educational purposes only. If you copy this document, please include our copyright notice and the name of the writer; if you revise it, please add your name to the list of writers..

Last update: 26 May 2000

URL: http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/punct/punctuateicsdcs.html