Punctuating Sentences Exercise (78)
From each of the following pairs of sentences, select the correctly punctuated version.
Answers and Explanations
1. I went to the meeting; however, John was not there.
A clause beginning with however is an independent clause and requires a semicolon before however and a comma after it, or however must begin a new sentence. (Alternatively, the sentence may be simplified to "I went to the meeting, but John was not there.")
2. If you are ready to go, then meet me at the corner in five minutes.
"If . . . then" statements require a comma before then, because the element beginning with if is a dependent clause. (Also, despite the name of this type of sentence, then is usually optional; it is in this example.)
3. They will submit a report, and if it is approved, they will begin to implement its recommendations.
In the sentence in which the comma follows and, the base sentence ("They will submit a report and they will begin to implement its recommendations") is missing key information, so "if it is approved" is not an optional parenthetical. The correct version of this sentence consists of two independent clauses ("They will submit a report" and "they will begin to implement its recommendations") -- one of which is preceded by a dependent clause ("if it is approved").
4. They spoke to department chair Mary Jones about the issue.
Commas should not bracket a person’s name to set it off from a preceding description or job title unless that word or phrase is preceded by the or a -- "They spoke to the department chair, Mary Jones, about the issue" -- in which case the person’s name is a nonessential parenthetical. (The sentence "They spoke to department chair about the issue" with the name omitted is incorrect; "They spoke to the department chair about the issue" is correct.)
5. We saw the sign and, continuing along the trail, found our way to the cabin.
This sentence differs from the correct form of the third sentence, above, in that the base sentence does not consist of two independent clauses, so a comma does not precede the conjunction. The comma should follow and because it is the first of two commas framing the nonessential parenthetical "continuing along the trail."