You’re right: You should definitely look out for comma splices on the SAT.
A comma splice is a grammar error that is created by joining two independent clauses (complete sentences) with a comma.
Since we have two complete sentences, we would form a comma splice if we combined them by using just a comma:
We see comma splices everywhere, and it’s unfortunate that people don’t know how to correct them.
Here is an easy way to correct a comma splice:
There is another way to fix comma splices: use the “FANBOYS”:
The technical name for the FANBOYS is coordinating conjunction. The term itself isn’t important; what actually matters is the role that coordinating conjunctions play. So let’s take a random comma splice and fix it by using one of the FANBOYS:
The sentence is now correct. On standardized tests, comma splices are quite common. Placing one of the FANBOYS between the two independent clauses (i.e., complete sentences) solves this problem. Just be sure to pick the one that makes the most logical sense. (For instance, there is a big difference between “but” and “and,” so you have to pick the right word.)
Good luck on the SAT!
(Goku GIF source: Ian Olsen)
the problem with reading a good book is that you want to finish the book but you don’t want to finish the book
- They no longer serve a purpose. You can find this often in fantasy novels, where the protagonist usually has a mentor who often dies immediately after imparting meaningful lessons upon the young hero.
- It changes things. Where the characters may have done one thing while someone was alive, they will now do this other thing because they misinterpret the dead character’s wishes, want to honor/avenge the dead character, because they lack the dead character’s steadying hand/impulsiveness/trait, or basically act in a way that differs from how they would have acted with the character’s survival
- Motivation. You want your character to do something. You’re fresh out of angsty teenage rebellion, out of the goodness of one’s heart is running low, and loyalty to the cause is in the red. There’s nothing like grief to spice things up.
"But clevergirl!" you cry, "These are the reasons you said we shouldn’t kill off characters for!”
Yes and no. You can kill off characters for these reasons but you must disguise the fact as best you can that you killed them off for these reasons. The character’s death shouldn’t come across as necessary for plot advancement. It should come across as a tragedy of the highest caliber. You’re writing from a character’s perspective. They don’t know that a character died because they outlived their usefulness. All they know is that their best friend is dead and they don’t know what to do with themselves.
To that end, here are some ways to make character death more meaningful:
- Do it sparingly. I say sparingly within the context of the work. War, plague, or disaster novels might have people dying left and right, but secondary/main characters don’t die every other page. (Also, if you kill characters off too much, you risk desensitizing your readers to death.) If you’re writing about a softer topic, don’t murder the grandmother and the dad in one day.
- Acknowledge the character’s existence. The dead character might have family or other friends who are also reacting to their death at the same time as the MC(s). The character’s absence should be noted in all aspects of their life, from the knitting club to the desk in the corner. The absence should have an impact on the proceedings of these aspects. The knitting club should disband without the dead character’s conciliatory influence. The desk in the corner should go unoccupied and is generally avoided for weeks.
- Appropriate levels of grief. Another thing that annoyed me about the Inheritance Cycle was that Eragon bawled his eyes out when he had to kill some snakes and insects to gain their power. When actual people died, he shed “a single, shining tear”. Come on! Your characters don’t need to descend into a frenzy of grief for every dead character - indeed, they may feel happy or can only sympathize with people who were impacted worse by the sudden loss. Save the real grief for character deaths that really impact the MC. If there are multiple deaths, the MC should not react in the exact same way to all of them.
- Emotions other than sadness. When one of my relatives died of terminal cancer, I was sad, but I was also relieved because they weren’t living in pain anymore. In the same way, a child might be happy their parent is dead so they can receive money they desperately need to pay off their debts, but still deeply mourn the parent’s passing. Some characters might feel anger or self-hatred if their actions led to the death. They might feel overwhelmed because of events other than the death or events stemming from the death. They might feel betrayed if the character died doing something stupid or contrary to orders. Grief is many emotions, of which sadness is one.
- Grief is not overcome by a single reason/event/person. Probably the worst thing ever in the history of literature is the belief that romantic love will overcome anything. In this case, many grieving characters will soon find their emotions taking a backseat to their new love, who will teach them to find a middle ground. In an equally annoying and false trope, characters automatically find their grief satisfied when they avenge the dead character’s death by killing the character’s killer. NO. You don’t automatically get over someone with a new love or by satisfying some goal deep inside you. It takes time and a variety of factors, not just one.