Punctuation Exercise (615)

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

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: The evidence is entered into a national database called the Combined DNA Index System or CODIS.
Correct : The evidence is entered into a national database called the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS.

To clarify that the database is not called "the Combined DNA Index System or CODIS," but simply "the Combined DNA Index System," and "or CODIS" is tacked on to identify the acronymic form of the name, a comma separates the tacked-on phrase.

2.
Original: Rather they had to navigate more than a million years of living in the shadows.
Correct : Rather, they had to navigate more than a million years of living in the shadows.

In the sense of "to the contrary," "rather" should be followed by a comma.

3.
Original: Nine researchers looked at 23 years worth of national data.
Correct : Nine researchers looked at 23 years’ worth of national data.

"Years," which the national data technically "belongs" to, requires an apostrophe signifying possession.

4.
Original: In his two years at the school, Smith said his sexual orientation had never been an issue.
Correct : In his two years at the school, Smith said, his sexual orientation had never been an issue.

The point is not that, during a given period, Smith talked about how his sexual orientation was never an issue, but that during the time, his sexual orientation was never an issue. "Smith said" should be set off as an attribution.

5.
Original: Mentors serve as role models; acclimate new teachers to a new school; and advise new teachers about instruction, curriculum, procedure, practices, and politics.
Correct : Mentors serve as role models, acclimate new teachers to a new school, and advise new teachers about instruction, curriculum, procedure, practices, and politics.

This sentence does not require that semicolons set off the elements, as they would if one or more of the elements were a list containing punctuation. Because each item begins with a verb, and only the final list item itself includes a list, confusion is not an issue, and commas suffice.

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