I was going to ask: where is the line drawn between parentheticals and comma splices?

I've been trying to think of examples, and all the ones I've thought of seem okay, but probably work in a third way again.

"He didn't hate sailing, he loathed it."

"He hated sailing, he was always seasick."

"He disliked sailing, he wasn't good at it."

"John dislikes sailing, Mary dislikes sport of all kinds."

None of these seem like genuine parentheticals, they seem more like subordinate clauses with the subordinating conjunction left out (if that is even a meaningful distinction). But they also seem like common literary AND conversational constructions, even if they are considered wrong.

Are there loopholes whereby what appear to be separate independent clauses can be joined without a conjunction?

  • In all these examples, I would use the semicolon ;.
    – Angelos
    Jul 11, 2016 at 13:15
  • Does this mean a semicolon is usually a kind of ellipsis for a subordinating conjunction? 'He hated sailing; (because) he was always seasick.'
    – Dunsanist
    Jul 11, 2016 at 13:18
  • It's used to tie together two independent clauses that could be separate sentences; thus, it is often used in the way you describe.
    – Angelos
    Jul 11, 2016 at 14:32
  • Semi-colons can be used with conjunctive adverbs, but not with subordinating conjunctions the way you have in your comment. Semi-colons can connect 2 independent clauses;however, when you put a subordinating conjunction on a clause it becomes a dependent clause. See link. Jul 11, 2016 at 18:56
  • @Gandalf That very resource lists thus as a conjunctive adverb.
    – Angelos
    Jul 12, 2016 at 1:14

1 Answer 1


The comma splice is generally pretty clearly defined:

A comma splice occurs when two independent clauses are connected with only a comma

(Source: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/engagement/2/1/34/)

In all of your examples, you have two independent clauses joined by a comma. You could either add a coordinating conjunction (not a subordinating conjunction) like and or but, or you can use a semicolon, period, or em-dash to separate the clauses.

Parenthetical, on the other hand, is—to the best of my knowledge—a rather imprecise umbrella term that encompasses a few different concepts, including appositives, relative clauses, introductory clauses, and the like. These take many forms from simple noun phrases to complex adverbial clauses, but they should generally be phrases or dependent/subordinate clauses.

If you have something that you consider parenthetical but that qualifies as an independent clause, offsetting it with a simple comma alone would constitute a comma splice.

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