Punctuation Exercise (549)

In each sentence, revise one or more punctuation marks to reflect correct usage.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: The Bad World Tour was the first concert tour by Michael Jackson launched in support of his seventh studio album, "Bad."
Correct : The Bad World Tour was the first concert tour by Michael Jackson, launched in support of his seventh studio album, "Bad."

The original sentence implies that Michael Jackson performed in more than one concert tour in support of the album "Bad," and that the Bad World Tour was the first of these. The insertion of the comma after his name signals that the tour was his first ever, and that the information that follows refers to that tour, the only one associated with the album.

2.
Original: The airport’s logo features Snoopy in World War I flying ace attire atop his Sopwith Camel, that is to say, his doghouse.
Correct : The airport’s logo features Snoopy in World War I flying ace attire atop his Sopwith Camel; that is to say, his doghouse.

For clarity, the phrase "that is to say" and the phrase that follows need to be set off from what precedes them; using the same type of punctuation mark to set off one phrase and to set off a larger phrase that includes the phrase already set off fails to signal the distinction.

3.
Original: Jones was outraged by the college’s flag ban, said her chief of staff John Smith.
Correct : Jones was outraged by the college’s flag ban, said her chief of staff, John Smith.

A lack of punctuation between the descriptive phrase "chief of staff" and the name "John Smith" implies that Jones has more than one chief of staff. Dividing the phrase from the name identifies them as appositives of each other—that is, two ways to describe the same thing (in this case, a specific person, who is Jones’s sole chief of staff).

4.
Original: It showed just how out of touch he is with real women—and real men for that matter.
Correct : It showed just how out of touch he is with real women—and real men, for that matter.

The idiomatic modifying phrase "for that matter," meaning "in regard to that" or "as far as that is concerned," must be set off from the phrase it alludes to. (See also "that is to say," in the second example—though in that case, the phrase precedes its referent.)

5.
Original: They share certain psychological characteristics such as dogmatism, rigidity, and intolerance of ambiguity; a need to avoid uncertainty; support for authoritarianism; a heightened sense of threat from others, and a need for structure.
Correct : They share certain psychological characteristics such as dogmatism, rigidity, and intolerance of ambiguity; a need to avoid uncertainty; support for authoritarianism; a heightened sense of threat from others; and a need for structure.

Occasionally, a sentence appears in which the components of a list within the sentence are separated by semicolons because at least one of the list items includes one or more commas, but the final list item is preceded by a mere comma. This style is an aberration; a semicolon is required after each list item in such a sentence.

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