Punctuation Exercise (609)

In each sentence, revise one or more punctuation marks and/or alter wording to reflect correct usage.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: Reform leaders should have a plan in place for establishing stakeholder buy-in; soliciting stakeholder feedback; building stakeholder knowledge; supporting stakeholders during implementation; and sharing implementation success stories, lessons learned, and next steps.
Correct : Reform leaders should have a plan in place for establishing stakeholder buy-in, soliciting stakeholder feedback, building stakeholder knowledge, supporting stakeholders during implementation, and sharing implementation success stories, lessons learned, and next steps.

As a rule, semicolons are employed in place of commas when a semicolon separates two closely related independent clauses not already divided by a conjunction or to separate list items when at least one of the list items itself includes list-within-a-list items separated by commas. This sentence does include such a list-within-a-list, but because it comes at the end of the sentence, and because each of the major list items begins with a verb, the sentence organization is clear, so simple commas s

2.
Original: Soon after the law was repealed.
Correct : Soon after, the law was repealed.

Some guidebooks advise that short introductory phrases such as "soon after" need not be followed by a comma, but in this case, the reader may begin the sentence believing that "Soon after the law was repealed" is merely a longer introductory phrase for a more extensive sentence, only to be brought up short. For this reason, it is advisable to consistently punctuate after introductory phrases of any length.

3.
Original: And the abrupt closure last month of five Wal-Mart stores raised a new suspicion: That the country’s biggest retailer is in on the plan to hatch martial law.
Correct : And the abrupt closure last month of five Wal-Mart stores raised a new suspicion: The country’s biggest retailer is in on the plan to hatch martial law.

The colon in this sentence and the "that" that follows serve the same function—to set up the assertion—so they are redundant to each other. (An alternative that retains "that" is "And the abrupt closure last month of five Wal-Mart stores raised a new suspicion—that the country’s biggest retailer is in on the plan to hatch martial law.")

4.
Original: Meanwhile nearby Saranac Lake had become a haven for tuberculosis patients.
Correct : Meanwhile, nearby Saranac Lake had become a haven for tuberculosis patients.

A comma is necessary following the conjunctive adverb "meanwhile."

5.
Original: The Giants are trying to break a five-game losing streak, and let’s face it. They need to make hay against a struggling Phillies team.
Correct : The Giants are trying to break a five-game losing streak, and let’s face it: They need to make hay against a struggling Phillies team.

The phrase "and let’s face it" sets up the sentence that follows, so a colon should precede the second statement.

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