Punctuation Exercise (356)

Edit the following sentences to supply any missing commas or hyphens.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: If you really want to know the truth I think an emphasis on a thorough eighth grade education would benefit the country far more than insistence that everyone should go to college.
Correct : If you really want to know the truth, I think an emphasis on a thorough eighth-grade education would benefit the country far more than insistence that everyone should go to college.

A comma is needed after the introductory clause. Many stylists say that when the introductory element is very short, a comma is not needed, but habit is a time-saver. You’re never wrong if you do use a comma. "Eighth-grade" needs a hyphen because it is being used to modify a noun.

2.
Original: The gloriously attired grand old Duke of York marched his troops to the top of a hill and then he marched them down again.
Correct : The gloriously attired grand old Duke of York marched his troops to the top of a hill, and then he marched them down again.

A comma is needed before the conjunctions andbutsoyetnor, or for when they separate two independent clauses. In very short sentences, the comma is optional if the sentence can be easily understood without it. But you’ll never be wrong to use a comma.

3.
Original: Linda Leavell who is a member of my writers’ group is a finalist for the 2013 National Book Awards.
Correct : Linda Leavell, who is a member of my writers’ group, is a finalist for the 2013 National Book Awards.

The clause "who is a member of my writers’ group" is not needed to convey the basic meaning of the sentence: "Linda Leavell is a finalist." As a nonrestrictive (or nonessential) element, the clause is set off by commas. 

4.
Original: For breakfast the campers were given a choice of oatmeal grits corn flakes and bacon and eggs.
Correct : For breakfast, the campers were given a choice of oatmeal, grits, corn flakes, and bacon and eggs.

Use a comma to set off an introductory phrase. When three or more items appear in a series, they should be separated from one another by commas. Some stylebooks do not recommend a comma between the last two items, but the best advice is that you’ll never be wrong to use a series comma because a sentence can be ambiguous without one. "Bacon and eggs" is one item.

5.
Original: The tourists left the hotel for the train station at dawn but missed the train anyway.
Correct : The tourists left the hotel for the train station at dawn but missed the train anyway.

The sentence has a compound predicate ("left and missed"). No comma needed.

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