PSAT Writing : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas in Lists

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas In Lists

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Carlos, Jim, and their sister, decided not to visit the old shack by the beach; instead, they stayed home and shared ghost stories in the darkNo error

Possible Answers:

shared ghost stories

beach; instead,

sister, decided

in the dark

No error

Correct answer:

sister, decided

Explanation:

A comma should never end a list: "Carlos, Jim, and their sister decided . . ."

Example Question #23 : Identifying Punctuation Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Sarah wanted to arrive at the store in time to buy the fresh bread cereal, and chocolate sauce. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

to arrive

in time

fresh bread

Sarah 

Correct answer:

fresh bread

Explanation:

Without a comma to make the "fresh bread" an item on the list, the item is unclear: is "fresh bread cereal" an item, or "fresh bread?" We need a comma to clarify. 

Example Question #1 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas In Lists

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Bill, Jane and Jared went to the movies every Sunday afternoon; they liked to sit at the back of the movie theatre because it offered the best view. No error

Possible Answers:

it offered 

every

Bill, Jane and Jared 

afternoon; they

No error

Correct answer:

Bill, Jane and Jared 

Explanation:

The phrase “Bill, Jane and Jared” should be “Bill, Jane, and Jarred” because the friend’s names are presented as a list. Words, clauses, or phrases in a series should always be separated by a comma. The sentence “Bill and Jane went to the movies” does not require a comma, but adding the third name, Jared, requires a comma between the three names. Be sure to note that there is no comma after the last word or phrase in the sequence.

Example Question #2 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas In Lists

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Mr. Williams has a number of diverse interests, including skateboarding, and playing video games. No error

Possible Answers:

skateboarding, and 

No error

interests, including

a number 

playing

Correct answer:

skateboarding, and 

Explanation:

There should not be a comma between the words “skateboarding” and “and.” In other words, the second part of the sentence should read “including skateboarding and playing video games.” This is because there are only two interests listed. A comma should only be used in lists containing three or more items.

Example Question #31 : Identifying Punctuation Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

By the end of the night, Derrick could tell that all the guests were full, happy and tired; the party had truly been a success. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

happy and 

night, Derrick

been

tired; the

Correct answer:

happy and 

Explanation:

Since the list "full, happy, and tired" has more than 2 items, each item before the last item must be separated using a comma. Inserting a comma after "happy" will make this sentence correct, so the underlined phrase "happy and" must be changed. Note that a semicolon is correctly used to separate two independent clauses from one another in this sentence.

Example Question #32 : Identifying Punctuation Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Yolanda, Sam are going to college in the fall, and they are nervous about living away from home. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

about living

Yolanda, Sam

fall, and

are

Correct answer:

Yolanda, Sam

Explanation:

Since the names Yolanda and Sam are the only items in the list, they do not need to be separated by a comma. We use the conjunction "and" to combine items in a two-item list, so "Yolanda, Sam" should be changed to "Yolanda and Sam." If Yolanda and Sam had a third friend, named, say, Suzannah, then commas would be needed to separate each name in the list.

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