Punctuation Exercise (650)

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

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: The fire was menacing homeowners devouring brush and timber to the south and west.
Correct : The fire was menacing homeowners, devouring brush and timber to the south and west.

Without a comma between the main clause ("the fire was menacing homeowners") and the subordinate clause (the rest of the sentence), the sentence states that homeowners, rather than the fire, were devouring brush and timber.

2.
Original: Needless to say this was a large cocaine bust.
Correct : Needless to say, this was a large cocaine bust.

The subordinate clause "needless to say" must be set off from the main clause by a comma.

3.
Original: Know that when it comes to health your body is your greatest ally.
Correct : Know that when it comes to health, your body is your greatest ally.

This is an example of a sentence in which the meaning is clear without internal punctuation, but the length of the introductory phrase is unwieldy. For consistency, introductory phrases should be set off from main clauses, regardless of length.

4.
Original: Sweltering temperatures and erratic winds drove the fire into sparsely populated areas to the east and north where it more than doubled in size.
Correct : Sweltering temperatures and erratic winds drove the fire into sparsely populated areas to the east and north, where it more than doubled in size.

A comma must set the subordinate clause "where it more than doubled in size" off from the main clause. Otherwise, "more than doubled in size" seems to apply only to the fire’s movement into sparsely populated areas rather than the entire extent of the fire.

5.
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.

This sentence lacks two commas: one to set off the introductory verb and the other to separate two phrases describing a sequence.

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