Punctuation Exercise (499)

In each sentence, insert or delete a comma (making other changes, when necessary) to observe grammatical structure that reflects the intended meaning.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: After Smith was confronted, witnesses told officials that he grabbed a flight attendant by the shirt.
Correct : After Smith was confronted, witnesses told officials, he grabbed a flight attendant by the shirt.

The structure of the original sentence implies that the officials were told about the assault after Smith was confronted. However "witnesses told officials" is an explanatory interjection interrupting the statement that Smith accosted the flight attendant after being confronted. "That" is extraneous, and a second framing comma belongs after "officials."

2.
Original: Mike Huckabee, former Baptist minister and perennial presidential hopeful had harsh words for professional women in New York City.
Correct : Mike Huckabee, former Baptist minister and perennial presidential hopeful, had harsh words for professional women in New York City.

The phrase "former Baptist minister and perennial presidential hopeful" is an appositive, an interjected word or phrase synonymous with a noun phrase that precedes or follows it, so a second comma is required after "hopeful."

3.
Original: If developed properly, Jones said it is the type of product that "rains money."
Correct : If developed properly, Jones said, it is the type of product that "rains money."

Similar to the first example above, this sentence includes an interjection, the attribution "Jones said." Without the second comma, the statement seems to refer to the proper development of Jones rather than the product.

4.
Original: Later that year, the band dissolved its partnerships with its first manager Mary Jones.
Correct : Later that year, the band dissolved its partnerships with its first manager, Mary Jones.

The adjective "first" signals a restrictive function—the band can have numerous managers but only one first manager—so "first manager" serves as an appositive rather than a mere job description and must be set off from the name by a comma.

5.
Original: Now make no mistake, and act accordingly.
Correct : Now, make no mistake, and act accordingly.

"Now" does not serve a temporal function; the first clause of the sentence does not mean "Do not make a mistake at this time." The word serves an idiomatic function as an emphatic tag, so it should be set off with a comma.

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