Punctuation Exercise (647)

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

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: White, black, rich, poor; it didn’t matter what type of people they were, because he could connect with all of them.
Correct : White, black, rich, poor—it didn’t matter what type of people they were, because he could connect with all of them.

The semicolon is incorrect here, because that punctuation mark separates two independent clauses, and the part of the sentence preceding it is a fragment. Because of the sudden break in grammatical structure, a dash is the proper choice of punctuation.

2.
Original: Remember all healing goes up and down somewhat—two steps forward then one step back.
Correct : Remember, all healing goes up and down somewhat—two steps forward, then one step back.

A comma must follow "remember" so that the reader doesn’t mistake the first few words as admonition to remember all healing. (Alternatively, "that" could be inserted instead.) Also, the phrases about how many steps are taken, though divided by a conjunctive adverb, require intervening punctuation.

3.
Original: Stress hormones interfere with digestion and poor digestion negatively affects brain chemistry.
Correct : Stress hormones interfere with digestion, and poor digestion negatively affects brain chemistry.

Without the comma, "poor digestion" might be misunderstood as the continuation of the beginning of the sentence—something that along with digestion in general is affected by stress hormones. Insertion of punctuation clearly delineates the second clause as a distinct statement.

4.
Original: When someone sins and confesses, he said, God not only forgives—but forgets.
Correct : When someone sins and confesses, he said, God not only forgives but also forgets.

The tag phrase "but forgets" is not an abrupt change in syntax, so the dash is not appropriate. Either revise the statement to include a "not only . . . but also" construction, as shown, or alter it so that the tag phrase is clearly distinct in the sentence structure: "When someone sins and confesses, he said, God not only forgives—he also forgets."

5.
Original: Jones, says Smith is a boring old fool.
Correct : Jones, says Smith, is a boring old fool.

This sentence is confusing. Either a comma is missing, and its insertion, as shown, clarifies that Smith is criticizing Jones, or the existing comma is extraneous, and Jones is criticizing Smith.

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