Punctuation Exercise (487)

In each sentence, determine whether the internal punctuation is necessary to make the statement grammatically correct.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: The French suspect in a deadly 2014 attack in Belgium had returned from fighting with extremists in Syria; and a man who rampaged in southern France in 2012 received paramilitary training in Pakistan.
Correct : The French suspect in a deadly 2014 attack in Belgium had returned from fighting with extremists in Syria, and a man who rampaged in southern France in 2012 received paramilitary training in Pakistan.

A semicolon that precedes a conjunction such as "and" when both the punctuation mark and the word separate two independent clauses is redundant. Often, one may replace the other, but in this case, a transitional word or phrase such as "similarly" should replace "and" if the semicolon is retained.

2.
Original: She wasn’t slowing the music down, exactly, just using the counterpart to get the point of the song across.
Correct : She wasn’t slowing the music down, exactly, just using the counterpart to get the point of the song across.

This sentence is correct as shown. If the comma preceding "exactly" is omitted, the implication is that the slowing down of the music is occurring in an exact manner, but the meaning is that slowing the music down isn’t exactly what was occurring or intended. "Exactly" is an interjection and must therefore be bracketed by punctuation.

3.
Original: This twisted action movie presented violence, not as a necessary evil but as a positive good, while at the same time presenting these paid murderers with sentimentality.
Correct : This twisted action movie presented violence not as a necessary evil but as a positive good, while at the same time presenting these paid murderers with sentimentality.

Just as no punctuation is required in a "not only . . . but also" statement, no comma is necessary between a point preceded by "not as" and a counterpoint that follows "but as."

4.
Original: The standard is to have a first responder on the scene within four minutes, 90 percent of the time.
Correct : The standard is to have a first responder on the scene within four minutes 90 percent of the time.

The two factors—time and success rate—should not be separated by punctuation.

5.
Original: Megacorp CEO John Smith is scheduled to present the keynote speech at the conference.
Correct : Megacorp CEO John Smith is scheduled to present the keynote speech at the conference.

This sentence is correct as shown. If the head of the sentence were structured "Megacorp’s CEO, John Smith, is . . ." or "The CEO of Megacorp, John Smith, is . . ." (or if the name and title were transposed in either form), the pair of commas would correctly separate appositives, nouns or noun phrases that are merely different ways of identifying the same thing. But "Megacorp CEO John Smith" is simply an epithet (a description) followed by a name of the person who matches that description.

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