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Is it a comma splice if followed by an incomplete sentence staring with an 'ing' word? I don't know exactly how to explain this properly or clearly, so I'll put up a few examples. I have seen it a lot in online writing, but that doesn't make it right. Would the following be considered incorrect:

Jenny replied, forcing her eyes away from his.

Michael put on his skates, slipping his feet in carefully.

I held the cone above my mouth, licking up the dripping cream.

We hurried home, jumping into the car without looking back.

Sometimes I don't want to make two sentences or use 'and, so, then, etc'. What should I do in that case?

  • The third might be considered a dangling participle (which I think you are asking about) , meaning that the cone was licking. The only place this could be considered wrong is in a school English test, and even then it's arguable. The other three are entirely unexceptionable. – Tim Lymington Sep 29 '13 at 14:27
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Short answer: no.

Long answer: A comma splice joins two independent clauses. Independent clauses need a subject and a verb. In your first example Jenny replied is an independent clause; it has a subject, Jenny, and a verb, replied. But forcing her eyes away from his has a verb, forcing, but no subject. For it to be a true comma splice it would have to be changed to something like

Jenny replied, she forced her eyes away from his.

Hope this helps.

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If you are asking whether it is some sort of “error”, certainly not. A comma-splice is said to occur when people try to splice together two independent clauses using a comma alone without the aid of a conjunction:

I went to the store, they were all out of milk. [WRONG]

I went to the store, but they were all out of milk. [RIGHT]

The examples you give, on the other hand, involve a super-common construct used by all writers everywhere. A quick grep of Tolkien’s main works uncovers about 2,500 instances of that sort of thing, and spot checks on a few other authors’ opera magna come up with a similar proportion.

Here are examples from three different authors:

I sat down on the sand and picked up a large piece of fish, motioning for him to join me.

His fingers dug hard into her arm, demanding an answer.

The others sorted out the goods, making a pile of all that could be left behind, and dividing up the rest.

For more, see Uses of -ing, where such participial phrases and others are discussed.

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  • aYes, I was asking if it was incorrect or not. I'm sorry about specifically asking about whether or not it was a comma splice. You're answers have really helped a lot. Thank you! – Stufing Sep 28 '13 at 3:15
  • @Stufing I just wanted to make sure we were talking about the same thing when it came to “comma splices”. Using participial phrases like these, sitting in the middle of sentence or even at the end, is perfectly normal. – tchrist Sep 28 '13 at 3:35
  • I'm sorry there's not a better-presented link to the Cobuild discussion of non-finite clauses (including ones like OP's Jenny replied, forcing ... etc) but dilforum.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-7713-p-2.html is reasonably close to the original... <<The other kind of non-finite clause does not begin with a subordinating conjunction. He pranced about, feeling very important indeed. I wanted to talk to her. This kind of clause sometimes consists of a participle and nothing else. _Ellen shook her head, smiling. Bet, grumbling, had departed to her harp lesson._>> – Edwin Ashworth Sep 28 '13 at 8:53

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