Punctuation Exercise (585)

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

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: This is in no way shape or form a witch hunt.
Correct : This is in no way, shape, or form a witch hunt.

The writer of this sentence apparently believed that its breezy conciseness excuses it from internal punctuation, but the words in the list must be separated by commas as shown.

2.
Original: Are the goals coherent, that is, are they consistent with other goals the organization may have?
Correct : Are the goals coherent? That is, are they consistent with other goals the organization may have?

The original sentence constitutes an unusual case of a comma splice, in which a comma erroneously serves to separate two independent clauses. A semicolon could replace the comma following "coherent," but because both clauses are questions, it’s better to assign the first clause its own question mark and divide the clauses into separate sentences.

3.
Original: In 1989, former Silver Palate partner, John Werner, and his wife, artist Carrie Brown, chanced upon the store while visiting from New York City.
Correct : In 1989, former Silver Palate partner John Werner and his wife, artist Carrie Brown, chanced upon the store while visiting from New York City.

No punctuation is required between the description of John Werner as former partner of the restaurant called the Silver Palate and his name, just as "artist Carrie Brown" does not merit an intervening comma. The comma after his name is also extraneous. One is required after Brown’s name, however, because the phrase "artist Carrie Brown" is a parenthetical modifying phrase identifying who "his wife" is.

4.
Original: Over the course of 72 hours, Jeb Bush said he would have ordered the invasion, based on the intelligence presented at the time; claimed he misunderstood the interviewer’s question; then said he would have done something different.
Correct : Over the course of 72 hours, Jeb Bush said that, based on the intelligence presented at the time, he would have ordered the invasion, claimed he misunderstood the interviewer’s question, and said he would have done something different.

If the items in a list each begin with a verb, simple commas, rather than semicolons, suffice to separate the items even if one or more of the items itself includes one or more commas.

5.
Original: In 1979, B. B. King became the first blues musician to tour the Soviet Union; and a household name in the United States with appearances in commercials for Burger King, Texaco, and Southwest Airlines.
Correct : In 1979, B. B. King became the first blues musician to tour the Soviet Union, and he became a household name in the United States with appearances in commercials for Burger King, Texaco, and Southwest Airlines.

A semicolon can also separate two closely related independent clauses; this is an alternative to treating them as separate sentences. If the phrase "he became a household name" in the original version of the sentence were to replace "and a household name," the sentence would be technically correct, except that the two clauses are related only in that they refer to the same person.

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