3 Sentences with Punctuation Problems

By Mark Nichol

Commas serve a vital function as a fundamental organizing tool within sentences, acting as buffers that keep syntactical elements in place and as signals that indicate relationship. Often, however, they are incorrectly located, omitted, or inserted, adversely affecting comprehension. After each of the sentences below, a discussion explains why a comma is misplaced, missing, or extraneous, and a revision demonstrates the correct placement.

1. They are becoming engaged early in the business development or R&D stage, and in some cases, evaluated as a potential acquisition targets.

The first comma in this sentence is placed as if to separate two independent clauses, but the statement has only one clause, interrupted by a parenthesis, so the first comma must be moved to mark the beginning of the interjection: “They are becoming engaged early in the business development or R&D stage and, in some cases, evaluated as a potential acquisition targets.”

2. Such a project should be treated as a business-transformation opportunity, creating large-scale initiatives that require attention and buy-in throughout the organization and should not be considered just another project.

This sentence is punctuated as if everything following opportunity is a subordinate clause, but the clause ends at organization (and is inserted within the sentence as a parenthesis), so a comma must be inserted after it: “Such a project should be treated as a business-transformation opportunity, creating large-scale initiatives that require attention and buy-in throughout the organization, and should not be considered just another project.”

3. Financial institutions should make certain that such information is used accurately and responsibly, and that privacy, discrimination, and other legal risks are appropriately addressed.

Here, the second of two phrases is unnecessarily set off from the first: “Financial institutions should make certain that such information is used accurately and responsibly and that privacy, discrimination, and other legal risks are appropriately addressed.”

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