Punctuation Exercise (733)

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

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: This issue takes the old quote, "It takes a village to raise a child," to a whole new level.
Correct : This issue takes the old quote "It takes a village to raise a child" to a whole new level.

Framing the quotation between two commas creates the erroneous implication that it is the only old quote in existence.

2.
Original: When it happened, she had been mayor for give or take ten days.
Correct : When it happened, she had been mayor for, give or take, ten days.

The parenthetical phrase "give or take" requires a pair of framing commas. (Using two dashes or parentheses would also be correct but in this case would create unnecessary distraction for a low-key interjection.)

3.
Original: They are nothing more than combative, do-nothing obstructionists who constitute the majority in Congress.
Correct : They are nothing more than combative do-nothing obstructionists who constitute the majority in Congress.

No comma is required in this sentence, because "combative" modifies "do-nothing obstructionists." A comma would be applicable between the adjectives if "combative" and "do-nothing" modified "obstructionists" in parallel. (To test whether punctuation is appropriate in such a case, reverse the order of the adjectives or temporarily insert "and" and judge whether the sentence makes sense.)

4.
Original: He served one term; losing his bid for reelection to John Smith.
Correct : He served one term, losing his bid for reelection to John Smith.

Because "losing his bid for reelection to John Smith" is a dependent clause, not an independent one, a simple comma suffices to separate it from the sentence’s main clause ("He served one term").

5.
Original: Smith recommended that the government add to its public crocodile warnings that: "Saltwater crocodiles can attack people in boats, and the smaller the boat, the greater the risk."
Correct : Smith recommended that the government add to its public crocodile warnings that "saltwater crocodiles can attack people in boats, and the smaller the boat, the greater the risk."

The quotation is integrated into the grammatical structure of the sentence, so no preceding punctuation is required.

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