Punctuation Exercise (559)

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

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: We haven’t had enough rain this year, so any late-season precipitation we’ll take.
Correct : We haven’t had enough rain this year, so any late-season precipitation, we’ll take.

This sentence includes a colloquial inversion of "We’ll take any late-season precipitation." Without the second comma, however, the relationship of "we’ll take" to the preceding phase is obscure, suggesting that the sentence is incomplete (any late-season precipitation we’ll take where?).

2.
Original: Smith also wants city leaders to reconsider the motto, "City of Pride and Purpose," because it’s generic.
Correct : Smith also wants city leaders to reconsider the motto "City of Pride and Purpose" because it’s generic.

The punctuation in this sentence is correct only if the motto has been generally referred to before, without being quoted, because otherwise the presence of the punctuation erroneously suggests that only one motto exists in all of creation.

3.
Original: Ousted Haitian dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier has died.
Correct : Ousted Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier has died.

The comma in this sentence serves no grammatical purpose; the epithet, or description, of the person functions like a job title.

4.
Original: Jones was found guilty of killing his wife whose body was found in ravine.
Correct : Jones was found guilty of killing his wife, whose body was found in ravine.

The absence of a comma before "whose" implies that the man had more than one wife, one of whom he was found guilty of killing. The punctuation clarifies that it was his (only) wife whose body was discovered.

5.
Original: Every time he’d breathe, the baby’s whole chest and body would just like rattle.
Correct : Every time he’d breathe, the baby’s whole chest and body would just, like, rattle.

"Like," in this sentence, is a colloquially interjected adverb that signals the resemblance of one thing to another: The baby’s body seemed to rattle, or make a rapid succession of short, sharp noises. Because it’s an interjection, it must be bracketed by punctuation. This rule also applies to the phrase "I’m like" or "I was like" to mean "I said," as in "And I’m, like, ‘Are you serious?’"

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