Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How bad is a comma splice really?

Today I tutored a guy in the writing center who had written a narrative about his childhood in the notorious East End of Houston. He was in a gang by the time he was ten, and he took a 9mm pistol to school in order to ward off the mean guys in a rival gang. They started harassing him on the way to school, and he took the gun out of his backpack and shot at them. They ran away and never bothered him again.

That's the great thing about guns, I suppose. Bad boys used to follow me home, too, and throw rocks at me. I suppose if I'd shot at them, they might have stopped.

(Amazingly, this kid never got apprehended for shooting at other kids. Rather, he got caught selling pot and spent several years in juvenile detention. When he got out, he was a new man. He got his GED in juvie, and now he's in community college. His friends, however, are still in gangs and dealing drugs.)

In light of these serious offenses, it seemed silly to carp about his comma splices. But that was what I was supposed to explain, so I did. I felt very silly though. "Shame on you for connecting two sentences with only a comma! You could have hurt somebody! To Huntsville with you!"

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