Punctuation Exercise (757)

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

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: The cause of death is currently unknown, however Smith had a history of drug abuse.
Correct : The cause of death is currently unknown; however, Smith had a history of drug abuse.

The first and second halves of this sentence are both independent clauses, so the comma preceding "however" is insufficient to set them off from each other; a semicolon is required. Also, "however" requires a following comma.

2.
Original: The NRA does not want terrorists or dangerous people to have firearms, any suggestion otherwise is offensive and wrong.
Correct : The NRA does not want terrorists or dangerous people to have firearms; any suggestion otherwise is offensive and wrong.

Like the preceding sentence, this statement requires a semicolon to divide two independent clauses.

3.
Original: We still noticed some trees that were stunted though.
Correct : We still noticed some trees that were stunted, though.

The conjunction "though," added to the sentence as an afterthought to indicate that the sentence is a counterpoint to a previous statement, must be preceded by a comma (just as, in the first sentence in this set, "however" is followed by a comma—and would be preceded by one if it were moved to the end of the sentence instead, which is a valid alternative).

4.
Original: The band will play a slightly larger hall in Virginia City the night before, Piper’s Opera House, a nineteenth-century building with a raked stage and sprung dance floor.
Correct : The band will play a slightly larger hall in Virginia City the night before: Piper’s Opera House, a nineteenth-century building with a raked stage and sprung dance floor.

Using a comma to set off the detailed description of the slightly larger hall in Virginia City is incorrect: As in the sentence you are reading now, a colon properly separates an explanation from the clause that sets up the explanation.

5.
Original: A rural road in California suddenly buckled creating a roadway mess.
Correct : A rural road in California suddenly buckled, creating a roadway mess.

The subordinate clause "creating a roadway mess," a phrase modifying the main clause "A rural road in California suddenly buckled," must be set off with a comma.

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