Punctuation Exercise (565)

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

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: Take Smith’s case for example, he actually excelled as an account specialist.
Correct : Take Smith’s case, for example: He actually excelled as an account specialist.

The phrase "for example" must be tacked on to "Take Smith’s case" with a comma, and the rest of the sentence is an independent clause, so it must be preceded by stronger punctuation.

2.
Original: I saved a review of their debut performance written by the newspaper’s jazz critic John Smith.
Correct : I saved a review of their debut performance written by the newspaper’s jazz critic, John Smith.

The phrase "newspaper’s jazz critic" implies that the publication has only one person answering that description, so the reference is restrictive, and that appositive phrase must be set off from the name by a comma. The phrase "newspaper jazz critic," on the other hand, is merely a job description and requires no intervening punctuation.

3.
Original: The new PBS documentary allows that, "of the tens of millions of Americans listening to their radios that Sunday evening, few were tuned to ‘War of the Worlds.’"
Correct : The new PBS documentary allows that "of the tens of millions of Americans listening to their radios that Sunday evening, few were tuned to ‘War of the Worlds.’"

At first glance, the initial comma seems to be correct, serving with the second comma to bracket a parenthetical phrase within the main clause "The new PBS documentary allows that few were tuned to ‘War of the Worlds.’" But note that this main clause is incomplete ("few" appears out of context—few what?), and the phrase between the commas is not parenthetical; it is simply a modifying phrase explaining what "few" refers to.

4.
Original: We should not criticize their actions because they are patriots.
Correct : We should not criticize their actions, because they are patriots.

The original sentence implies that the patriotism of the people referred to by the pronoun "their" should not prompt criticism, and that an additional independent clause will follow "patriots" that explains why they should be criticized. But the sentence’s meaning is that because they are patriots, we should not criticize their actions; the syntax of the phrase preceding the semicolon here is an even better revision than merely inserting a comma before "because."

5.
Original: The woman was merely homeless not dangerous.
Correct : The woman was merely homeless, not dangerous.

Use a comma near the end of a sentence to separate contrasted elements.

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