PSAT Writing : Identifying Semicolon Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Identifying Semicolon Errors

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

Joe was feeling particularly happy on Tuesday; so he decided to treat himself to a cup of coffee and a slice of pie. No error.

Possible Answers:

was feeling

particularly 

No error.

Tuesday; so

himself

Correct answer:

Tuesday; so

Explanation:

This is an incorrect use of a semi-colon. If you use a semi-colon, you should not follow it with a conjunction. In this case, it sounds best to keep the conjunction “so” and switch the semi-colon to a comma: "Joe was feeling particularly happy on Tuesday, so he decided to treat himself to a cup of coffee and a slice of pie."

Example Question #2 : Identifying Semicolon Errors

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

The sidewalk is covered in black ice; so you should be careful when you walk outsideNo error.

Possible Answers:

No error.

when you walk outside

should be 

black ice; so

is covered

Correct answer:

black ice; so

Explanation:

Semicolons should be used to separate two independent clauses that are not connected by a conjunction. "So" is a conjunction here, so a semicolon is not appropriate. Use a comma instead: "The sidewalk is covered in black ice, so you should be careful when you walk outside."

Example Question #3 : Identifying Semicolon Errors

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

Resting under the shade of the elm tree, Troy felt relaxed; but he knew it would soon be time to go home. No error.

Possible Answers:

would soon be

the elm tree,

No error.

Resting under

relaxed;

Correct answer:

relaxed;

Explanation:

The semicolon is used to combine two related sentences without a conjunction. This one should be replaced with a comma because the second part of the sentence would not be a complete sentence on its own. So, the correct answer is "relaxed ;" because this part of the sentence contains an error.

Example Question #1 : 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.

Knitting may appear complex, but even its most complicated patterns can be created from a combination of just two stitches; knit stitches and purl stitches. No error

Possible Answers:

complex, but even

No error

can be created

just two stitches;

appear

Correct answer:

just two stitches;

Explanation:

This sentence's error lies in the incorrect way in which it uses a semicolon to introduce a list. "Knit stitches and purl stitches" are the "two stitches" that the sentence introduces earlier, so a colon is the most appropriate punctuation mark to use in this instance. The corrected sentence reads, "Knitting may appear complex, but even its most complicated patterns can be created from a combination of just two stitches: knit stitches and purl stitches."

Example Question #4 : Identifying Semicolon Errors

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

Frances took a moment to collect herself; before pressing the button and sealing the pneumatic door foreverNo error

Possible Answers:

No error

herself; before

forever

and

took a moment

Correct answer:

herself; before

Explanation:

This sentence misuses a semicolon, which is generally used to separate two independent clauses. In this adverbial phrase, no punctuation is needed. The corrected sentence reads, "Frances took a moment to collect herself before pressing the button and sealing the pneumatic door forever."

Example Question #15 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Other Punctuation

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

The community members voiced various complaints; such as their distrust of the new energy company buying up local propertyNo error

Possible Answers:

buying up local property

various

No error

their distrust

complaints; such as

Correct answer:

complaints; such as

Explanation:

This sentence misuses a semi-colon. These should be used to separate two independent clauses, so either side should be able to stand on its own as a sentence. Here, the latter half of the sentence is not an independent clause and cannot stand on its own, so you should use a comma instead: "The community members voiced various complaints, such as their distrust of the new energy company buying up local property."

Example Question #1 : 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.

Everyone on the team agreed that the best option was to forfeit the game; without their best player; the team didn't have a chance of winningNo error

Possible Answers:

player; the

game; without

chance of winning

No error

best option

Correct answer:

player; the

Explanation:

A comma should be used instead of a semicolon to separate the introductory phrase "without their best player" from the rest of the second independent clause "the team didn't have a chance of winning."

Example Question #2 : 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.

That book over there belongs to Eileen; so we should return it to her before she needs to study for the massive English test next week. No error

Possible Answers:

there

that

to study

Eileen;

No error

Correct answer:

Eileen;

Explanation:

A semicolon is meant to connect two thoughts that are both independent clauses. However, the second clause here is dependent and is connected by the word "so." In this situation, a comma would be appropriate to link that subordinate clause to the first independent clause. So, the corrected sentence would read, "That book over there belongs to Eileen, so we should help return it to her before she needs to study for the massive English test next week."

Example Question #5 : Identifying Semicolon Errors

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

Abigail’s favorite pastime was hiking; and she often hiked with friends in the mountains near her house. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

Abigail's

hiking; and she 

near her house 

with friends

Correct answer:

hiking; and she 

Explanation:

The option with an error is “hiking; and she.” Semicolons can be used to separate two phrases that could each stand as their own sentence but are related to each other in topic. The problem with “hiking; and she” is that the semicolon is being used to separate two ideas that are related, but the material that follows the semicolon is a fragment and cannot stand as a sentence on its own. This problem could easily be corrected by removing the “and” so the entire passage reads, “Abigail’s favorite pastime was hiking; she often hiked with friends in the mountains near her house.” 

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