Punctuation Exercise (466)

In each sentence, determine whether a comma should follow the first word.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: Now this is how you splurge on a cruise ship.
Correct : Now, this is how you splurge on a cruise ship.

"Now" is an emphatic tag, rather than a reference to the present, so it requires punctuation to set it off from the rest of the sentence.

2.
Original: Before I used to do things without any real purpose.
Correct : Before, I used to do things without any real purpose.

The first word modifies the rest of the sentence and should therefore be set off from it. Otherwise, the reader might initially get the impression that the sentence will have a form such as "Before I did things with a purpose, I was aimless," in which punctuation after "before" would be incorrect.

3.
Original: Once I knew the answer, the rest of the mystery fell into place.
Correct : Once I knew the answer, the rest of the mystery fell into place.

No comma is needed after "once" at the head of a sentence unless it is used to mean "at one time," as in "Once, I knew the answer, but now I’ve forgotten it." In the quiz sentence, "once" means "now that."

4.
Original: Attention please. All participants who signed up for the seminar, follow me to the next room.
Correct : Attention, please. All participants who signed up for the seminar, follow me to the next room.

"Attention" is a form of direct address (a word or phrase directed at one or more people), just like a generic label like "sir" or a job title or description such as "doctor," and is always set off from the rest of the sentence (even if there’s only one other word) by a comma.

5.
Original: Oh please spare me your flimsy excuses.
Correct : Oh, please spare me your flimsy excuses.

"Oh" is an interjection, and such words and phrases must always be set off from the rest of the sentence.

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