Punctuation Exercise (670)
In each sentence, revise one or more punctuation marks to reflect correct usage.
Answers and Explanations
Original: NBC entertainment chairman, Bob Greenblatt, had two words Thursday on whether Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump would ever return as host of "The Celebrity Apprentice:" Absolutely not.
Correct : NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt had two words Thursday on whether Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump would ever return as host of "The Celebrity Apprentice": "Absolutely not."
Besides the mistaken placement of the colon, the sentence shows the erroneous but frequent error of bracketing a name in commas when it directly follows a job title or an epithet. Also, "absolutely not" should be enclosed in quotation marks if it’s a direct quotation.
Original: The conditions also encourage the growth of algal mats, or algae blooms as they’re also known.
Correct : The conditions also encourage the growth of algal mats, or algae blooms, as they’re also known.
The phrase "or algae blooms" should be set off parenthetically as an alternate name for "algal mats"; "as they’re also known" is a subordinate clause distinct from that phrase, so intervening punctuation is required.
Original: I’m really offended to be quite honest.
Correct : I’m really offended, to be quite honest.
As written, the writer seems to be expressing indignation that he or she is truthful; "to be quite honest," however, is a subordinate clause providing an additional detail about the main clause ("I’m really offended"), so a comma should separate the clauses.
Original: Do you think a bunch of white businessmen, say former college friends, who got loud and boisterous would have been treated the same way?
Correct : Do you think a bunch of white businessmen—say, former college friends—who got loud and boisterous would have been treated the same way?
The phrase "say former college friends" is correctly set off as a parenthetical phrase, but "say" is in turn parenthetical and must be separated from the rest of the phrase by punctuation. To clarify the hierarchy of parenthesis, the bracketing commas have been converted to dashes, which are stronger parenthetical marks than commas.
Original: The team triumphed with a dramatic, seven-game improvement that season.
Correct : The team triumphed with a dramatic seven-game improvement that season.
"Dramatic" is parallel to "seven game"—they are both modifiers for "improvement"—so no intervening punctuation is necessary.