Punctuation Exercise (696)

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

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: "I was on tour in the Silicon Valley today, and every house I saw was over $1,200 a square foot," the home’s listing agent John Smith said.
Correct : "I was on tour in the Silicon Valley today, and every house I saw was over $1,200 a square foot," the home’s listing agent, John Smith, said.

Because "John Smith" is equivalent to "the home’s listing agent," the name must be set off from its appositive, or equivalent wording. (No commas would be required for "listing agent John Smith," however, because "listing agent" is merely an epithet, not a phrase specifically equivalent to the person’s name.)

2.
Original: The comedian said, "I never dreamed that I’d one day have—well, two things, really—an indoor toilet, and a job as host of this show."
Correct : The comedian said, "I never dreamed that I’d one day have—well, two things, really: an indoor toilet, and a job as host of this show."

Although what precedes and follows the parenthetical ("well, two things really") is a complete sentence, the parenthetical leads directly into the second half of the statement, so it is better treated as an introduction to what follows, with the two elements separated by a colon rather than a dash that closes the parenthesis. Now, the sentence changes abruptly in direction after "have" and continues in that new direction all the way to the end.

3.
Original: Viewers called his performance "fantastic," "awesome" and another called it "the best opening shows of any host."
Correct : Viewers called his performance "fantastic" and "awesome," and another called it "the best opening shows of any host."

The descriptions "fantastic" and "awesome" share the verb "called," so they should be separated by a conjunction rather than punctuation, and a comma should follow the second adjective to separate the two independent clauses.

4.
Original: What looked like a typical runaway case—turned into a horrible child-abuse case.
Correct : What looked like a typical runaway case turned into a horrible child-abuse case.

This sentence describes an unexpected turn, but the turn is in the events described, not in the grammatical structure of the sentence itself. Dashes are often employed to signal an abrupt shift in a sentence, but none is merited here.

5.
Original: Smith said three carbon-dating efforts indicate the site was used about 4,000 years ago and one fire pit is 7,300 years old (scientists say the research proves only that there was a fire and that none of those dates is linked to human activity).
Correct : Smith said three carbon-dating efforts indicate the site was used about 4,000 years ago and one fire pit is 7,300 years old. (Scientists say the research proves only that there was a fire and that none of those dates is linked to human activity.)

A parenthesis that is a complete sentence located at the end of another sentence should be punctuated as a complete sentence, with terminal punctuation located inside the close quotation mark (and terminal punctuation after the preceding sentence). However, if a complete sentence within parentheses appears within a sentence, the parenthesis is not punctuated (unless it merits a question mark or an exclamation point).

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