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Recently, I was being tongue in cheek when I wrote the following words:

  • I'm quite dead, I assure you.

Someone felt inclined to correct my grammar and say that it was a comma splice. They suggested that I should've written it one of the following ways:

  • I'm quite dead. I assure you.

  • I'm quite dead; I assure you.

Their reasoning was that it's two main clauses not joined by a conjunction. I see where they are coming from, but it also looked strange to me because what I meant was:

  • I assure you (that) I'm quite dead.

I simply inverted it. The "that" is implied. Does inverting the sentence affect punctuation? Where I might have put no punctuation otherwise, is punctuation now required? If so, is a comma sufficient or is either a semicolon or period required? Which would be the proper way to write such sentences?

A. I'm quite dead I assure you.

B. I'm quite dead, I assure you.

C. I'm quite dead; I assure you.

D. I'm quite dead. I assure you.

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  • 1
    In a nutshell, you were correct and they were wrong. I'll have to let someone else get into the gory details, though.
    – Hellion
    Jul 13, 2016 at 18:15
  • Personally, I would use a colon or an mdash.
    – TrevorD
    Jul 13, 2016 at 18:51

1 Answer 1

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A Google search for "He's quite dead. I assure you." (which as expected shows more hits than the "I'm" version, if not many more) only gives examples of your versions B and A.

Comma splices are not wrong per se, as discussed in this previous thread. And I'd say that version B is the best here ('I assure you' is best not analysed as an independent clause anyway).

Version A 'reads' wrongly, to my ears: the natural pause isn't signalled.

Version C treats 'I assure you that', essentially, as an independent clause, and is clumsy at best.

Version D is fine if you want a more dramatic pause.

Version B treats 'I assure you' as a modality marker, a parenthetical, which is probably best set off by the comma.

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