Punctuation Exercise (535)

In each sentence, revise one or more punctuation marks (and surrounding words) to reflect correct usage.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: You have probably heard the phrase, "Don’t go to bed angry."
Correct : You have probably heard the phrase "Don’t go to bed angry."

The comma following "the phrase" implies that what follows is appositive, or equivalent, to "the phrase" as if only one phrase exists. But the "phrase" and "Don’t go to bed angry" are not appositives; "the phrase" merely identifies what kind of thing "Don’t go to bed angry" is: It is a phrase, one of innumerable such things.

2.
Original: Let me put it this way, your boyfriend isn’t very good when it comes to gift selection.
Correct : Let me put it this way: Your boyfriend isn’t very good when it comes to gift selection.

The punctuation in this sentence is a comma splice (the erroneous use of a comma when stronger punctuation is required). What follows "Let me put it this way" is an explanation or extension of the setup that precedes it, and the ideal punctuation to separate setup and payoff is a colon. Note the capitalization of the first word following the colon.

3.
Original: After the investigation, spokesman John Smith says administrators will decide Jones’s future with the school district.
Correct : After the investigation, spokesman John Smith says, administrators will decide Jones’s future with the school district.

This sentence implies that Smith’s statement follows the investigation. But "spokesman John Smith says" is an attribution (a phrase that identifies who spoke or wrote something quoted) inserted in the base sentence "After the investigation, administrators will decide Jones’s future with the school district." As an interjection, the phrase must be both preceded and followed by matching punctuation.

4.
Original: With such low inventory, offers for San Francisco homes like this Noe Valley pad, continue to stun.
Correct : With such low inventory, offers for San Francisco homes like this Noe Valley pad continue to stun.

This type of error, which is common, seems to be a result of carelessness rather than misunderstanding; most people know that a comma precedes a verb only if what comes before is an interjection, as is the case with "fell" in "I ran after him, but, handicapped by my injury, fell behind immediately." Perhaps the writer meant to punctuate "like this Noe Valley pad" both before and after as an interjection but neglected to insert the first comma. That isolation of the phrase, however, is a grammati

5.
Original: This summer, another NASA spacecraft dubbed New Horizons will make the first visit to the dwarf planet Pluto.
Correct : This summer, another NASA spacecraft, dubbed New Horizons, will make the first visit to the dwarf planet Pluto.

The phrase "another NASA spacecraft dubbed New Horizons" implies that a NASA spacecraft named "New Horizons" has already been discussed, and now a second spacecraft with the same name is being mentioned. Inserting commas before "dubbed" and after the name clarifies that "New Horizons" is the name of a spacecraft distinct from one previously mentioned (and named something else, whether that name was specified or not). This use of punctuation signals the appositive functions of "NASA spacecraft" a

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