Punctuation Exercise (580)

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

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: The banana is a fruit, whose many varieties are produced throughout the tropical world year-round.
Correct : The banana is a fruit whose many varieties are produced throughout the tropical world year-round.

A comma preceding the pronoun "whose" serves no grammatical purpose and only obstructs the syntactical flow of the sentence.

2.
Original: Lo and behold the repeated attempt yielded the same result.
Correct : Lo and behold, the repeated attempt yielded the same result.

Punctuation is required to set the interjection "lo and behold" off from the rest of the sentence, regardless of its position in the sentence. (If it were inserted mid-sentence, between the subject and the predicate—preceding "yielded"—two bracketing commas would be required.)

3.
Original: John Smith, spokesman for the Transbay Transit Authority which is building the new downtown terminal, said that the focus continues to be on bringing the rail into the new transit center as soon as possible.
Correct : John Smith, spokesman for the Transbay Transit Authority, which is building the new downtown terminal, said that the focus continues to be on bringing the rail into the new transit center as soon as possible.

Using "which" (or, as is more common, "that") without a preceding comma to begin the modifying phrase that follows "the Transbay Transit Authority" implies that more than one such agency exists, and the one in question is constructing the terminal. Setting the modifying phrase off with commas clarifies that it explains the role of the sole agency with that name.

4.
Original: Former hostage Javier Espinosa who had been held in Syria by Islamic State extremists has described mock executions and other forms of psychological torture.
Correct : Former hostage Javier Espinosa, who had been held in Syria by Islamic State extremists, has described mock executions and other forms of psychological torture.

The phrase describing the circumstances of Espinosa’s confinement is a parenthetical phrase—one that can be excised from the sentence without affecting the grammatical structure of the main clause—and should therefore be bracketed by a pair of commas (or by parentheses or two dashes).

5.
Original: Whenever appropriate policies should be worded to reflect this trend.
Correct : Whenever appropriate, policies should be worded to reflect this trend.

Some writing handbooks state that short introductory phrases need not be set off from the rest of the sentence, but in this case, the reader might initially misread the sentence as referring to "appropriate policies." Because of such ambiguity, a comma should be used.

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