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There was some confusion, Mother let me know.

The sentence, on the one hand, has a comma splice, using a comma to connect two independent clauses. On the other hand, this is a case of an implied conjunction (as in: "There was some confusion, as Mother let me know").

Now, if the order of the clauses were flipped, it seems like it wouldn't need a comma.

Mother let me know there was some confusion. Is this because the conjunction (in that case: "then") would also be implied?

I try to help my students recognize independent clauses and realize when to use commas, conjunctions, and periods, but I realize that I'm now breaking those very same rules. I'd like some clarity.

  • You perhaps need to adjust 'comma splices are punishable by the death penalty (or worse, may make @StoneyB froth at the mouth)' to 'comma splices should only be used sparingly and judiciously'. After all, 'I came, I saw, I conquered' has a fair pedigree. See Is it grammatically correct to combine 2 phrases{read 'independent clauses'} into 1 sentence?. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 4 '16 at 11:14
  • Here, 'Mother let me know that there was some confusion.' uses a tensed complement ( that-) clause. The 'that' is commonly deleted ( 'Mother let me know there was some confusion.') which yields a surface structure of two independent clauses. A colon could be inserted after 'there'; it is a versatile enough punctuation mark for the 'report' structure and the content clause to be swapped over. 'There was some confusion: Mother let me know.' ... 'Mother let me know: there was some confusion.' However, colons are a little formal and/or old-fashioned, and the comma is becoming an acceptable alt. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 4 '16 at 11:24
  • "Mother let me know" is not an independent clause here; it is a subordinate clause, so no comma splice here. There is no internal marker of subordination: the clause is shown to be subordinate by virtue of its function in the larger construction. – BillJ Aug 4 '16 at 17:09
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    @EdwinAshworth I would say the example given has a parenthetical with "Mother…". – Jasper Locke Aug 4 '16 at 19:57

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