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Which of the following is correct:

1) Don't come in, I'm busy.
2) Don't come in; I'm busy.
3) Don't come in. I'm busy.
4) Don't come in I'm busy.

And why?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Of the four choices, the only one that doesn't work is 4.

Don't come in, I'm busy.

is a comma splice, but acceptable informally.

Don't come in; I'm busy.

is perfectly fine, but a bit musty and over-educated for many uses.

Don't come in. I'm busy.

is probably the simplest, but may not express the connectedness of the two sentences sufficiently for your taste. (Note: It doesn't have to. Apposition is a form of connection.)

You might also consider

Don't come in: I'm busy.

The colon indicates that "I'm busy" is a direct explanation of the command that comes before it.

But of the four I myself would go with No. 3.

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Also, perhaps: "Don't come in...I'm busy." – Chris B. Behrens Jan 27 '11 at 21:59
@Josh: read my first sentence. – Robusto Jan 27 '11 at 22:44
sorry, I can't count! – Josh Jan 27 '11 at 22:47
Hey, the semicolon isn't "musty and over-educated" at all! Take that back. :p – ShreevatsaR Jan 28 '11 at 3:45

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