SAT Writing : Correcting Other Punctuation Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #11 : Improving Sentences

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Who will take care of my dog, who needs a lot of care and attention, when I go on vacation next week

Possible Answers:

Who will take care of my dog, who needs a lot of care and attention, when I go on vacation next week?

Who will take care of my dog, who needs a lot of care and attention, when I go on vacation next week!

Who will take care of my dog, who needs a lot of care and attention, when I go on vacation next week.

Who will take care of my dog, who needs a lot of care and attention, when I go on vacation next week,

Who will take care of my dog, who needs a lot of care and attention, when I go on vacation next week;

Correct answer:

Who will take care of my dog, who needs a lot of care and attention, when I go on vacation next week?

Explanation:

Because the sentence starts with the word "who," it should be obvious that it is a question and thus has to end with a question mark. Don't get confused by the extra phrase that describes the dog.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Other Punctuation Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Marcia was overjoyed that the dog, at long last, would have a house of it's own.

Possible Answers:

Marcia was overjoyed the dog, at long last, would have a house of it's own. 

Marcia was overjoyed that the dog, at long last, would have a house of its own. 

Marcia was overjoyed that the dog, at long last, would have a house of it's own to have. 

Marcia was overjoyed that the dog, at long last, would have a house of it's own.

Marcia was overjoyed that the dog, at long last, to have a house of its own. 

Correct answer:

Marcia was overjoyed that the dog, at long last, would have a house of its own. 

Explanation:

"It's" is a contraction of "it is," while "its" is the possessive form of "it." We can see now how the in the first sentence, the contraction does not make sense, and should be replaced with the possessive.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Other Punctuation Errors

Replace the underlined section with the answer that best results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. 

The rare fourteenth century text was hermetically sealed and locked in a vault in order to protect against moisture and thieves alike.

Possible Answers:

The rare fourteenth-century text was hermetically sealed and locked in a vault in order to protect against moisture and thieves alike.

The rare fourteenth century text was hermetically-sealed and locked in a vault in order to protect against moisture and thieves alike.

The rare fourteenth century text was hermetically sealed and locked in a vault in order to protect against moisture and thieves alike.

The rare, fourteenth century text was hermetically sealed and locked in a vault in order to protect against moisture and thieves alike.

The rare fourteenth-century text was hermetically-sealed and locked in a vault in order to protect against moisture and thieves alike.

Correct answer:

The rare fourteenth-century text was hermetically sealed and locked in a vault in order to protect against moisture and thieves alike.

Explanation:

“Fourteenth century” is another instance of a compound adjective that appears immediately before a noun. Like all other compound adjectives in front of a noun, this one must be hyphenated. “Fourteenth-century text” is the correct form. Because “hermetically” is an adverb preceding an adjective, it does not require a hyphen.

Example Question #2 : Correcting Other Punctuation Errors

Replace the underlined section with the answer that best results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. 

It was a dark, eldritch Halloween, and the eight-year-olds shrieked in terror at the sound of a branch rasping against the window.

Possible Answers:

It was a dark, eldritch Halloween, and the eight year olds shrieked in terror at the sound of a branch rasping against the window.

It was a dark, eldritch Halloween and the eight year olds shrieked in terror at the sound of a branch rasping against the window.

It was a dark, eldritch Halloween, and the eight-year-olds shrieked in terror at the sound of a branch rasping against the window.

It was a dark, eldritch Halloween and the eight-year-olds shrieked in terror at the sound of a branch rasping against the window.

It was a dark, eldritch Halloween; and the eight-year-olds shrieked in terror at the sound of a branch rasping against the window.

Correct answer:

It was a dark, eldritch Halloween, and the eight year olds shrieked in terror at the sound of a branch rasping against the window.

Explanation:

In this sentence, “eight-year-olds” is used as a noun and not an adjective, so it should not be hyphenated. We have two independent clauses separated by a conjunction (“It was a dark, eldritch Halloween” and “the eight-year-olds shrieked in terror at the sound of a branch rasping against the window”), so the conjunction must be preceded by a comma.

Example Question #245 : Correcting Punctuation Errors: Other Punctuation

Replace the underlined section with the answer that best results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. 

Joe and Jenna were wondering if Sheila could bring a light snack – a fruit or cheese platter, for example – to the faculty meeting?

Possible Answers:

Joe and Jenna were wondering if Sheila could bring a light snack, a fruit or cheese platter, for example, to the faculty meeting?

Joe and Jenna were wondering if Sheila could bring a light snack – a fruit or cheese platter, for example – to the faculty meeting?

Joe and Jenna were wondering if Sheila could bring a light snack, a fruit or cheese platter, for example, to the faculty meeting.

Joe and Jenna were wondering if Sheila could bring a light snack: a fruit or cheese platter, for example, to the faculty meeting?

Joe and Jenna were wondering if Sheila could bring a light snack – a fruit or cheese platter, for example – to the faculty meeting.

Correct answer:

Joe and Jenna were wondering if Sheila could bring a light snack – a fruit or cheese platter, for example – to the faculty meeting.

Explanation:

This sentence is declaratory, not interrogative. In other words, the writer is describing a situation (Joe and Jenna are wondering something) and not asking a question (such as “were Joe and Jenna wondering?”). Even though the sentence is expressing uncertainty, it is not an interrogative sentence and therefore should not have a question mark. A period is the correct punctuation to end this sentence. The em dashes are correctly used to set off the example; commas would be incorrect.

Example Question #4 : Correcting Other Punctuation Errors

Replace the underlined section with the answer that best results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. 

The chamber of commerce will be running a special promotion for family owned businesses in the fall; it hopes to encourage tourists to purchase from local entrepreneurs rather than large companies.

Possible Answers:

The chamber of commerce will be running a special promotion for family-owned businesses in the fall; it hopes to encourage tourists to purchase from local entrepreneurs rather than large companies.

The chamber of commerce will be running a special promotion for family-owned businesses in the fall, and they hope to encourage tourists to purchase from local entrepreneurs rather than large companies.

The chamber of commerce will be running a special promotion for family-owned businesses in the fall, it hopes to encourage tourists to purchase from local entrepreneurs rather than large companies.

The chamber of commerce will be running a special promotion for family owned businesses in the fall; it hopes to encourage tourists to purchase from local entrepreneurs rather than large companies.

The chamber of commerce will be running a special promotion for family owned businesses in the fall, it hopes to encourage tourists to purchase from local entrepreneurs rather than large companies.

Correct answer:

The chamber of commerce will be running a special promotion for family-owned businesses in the fall; it hopes to encourage tourists to purchase from local entrepreneurs rather than large companies.

Explanation:

Because “family owned” is a compound adjective that appears immediately before a noun, it must be be hyphenated. A semicolon is the correct punctuation to separate the two independent clauses.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Other Punctuation Errors

Replace the underlined section with the answer that best results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. 

The novice writer was completely overwhelmed by the thought of producing a three hundred page novel manuscript, but her teacher assured her it could be done.

Possible Answers:

The novice writer was completely overwhelmed by the thought of producing a three-hundred-page novel manuscript; but her teacher assured her it could be done.

The novice writer was completely overwhelmed by the thought of producing a three hundred page novel manuscript, but her teacher assured her it could be done.

The novice writer was completely overwhelmed by the thought of producing a three-hundred-page novel manuscript, but her teacher assured her it could be done.

The novice writer was completely overwhelmed by the thought of producing a three-hundred-page novel manuscript but her teacher assured her it could be done.

The novice writer was completely overwhelmed by the thought of producing a three hundred page novel manuscript; but her teacher assured her it could be done.

Correct answer:

The novice writer was completely overwhelmed by the thought of producing a three-hundred-page novel manuscript, but her teacher assured her it could be done.

Explanation:

“Three hundred page” is a compound adjective that appears directly in front of a noun. In standard English, compound adjectives that immediately precede nouns are always hyphenated for clarity’s sake. “Three-hundred-page novel manuscript” is the correct form. As with all sentences that link two independent clauses with a conjunction, the correct punctuation before the conjunction (in this case, “but”) is a comma.

Example Question #6 : Correcting Other Punctuation Errors

Replace the underlined section with the answer that best results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. 

The twenty-page instruction manual complete with color-coded diagrams was entirely incomprehensible.

Possible Answers:

The twenty-page instruction manual (complete with color-coded diagrams) was entirely incomprehensible.

The twenty-page instruction manual, complete with color-coded diagrams, was completely incomprehensible.

The twenty-page instruction manual (complete with color-coded diagrams), was completely incomprehensible.

The twenty-page instruction manual complete with color-coded diagrams was entirely incomprehensible.

The twenty-page instruction manual, (complete with color-coded diagrams), was completely incomprehensible.

Correct answer:

The twenty-page instruction manual (complete with color-coded diagrams) was entirely incomprehensible.

Explanation:

Here, parentheses are needed to enclose additional or clarifying information. Because no comma is needed in the main part of the sentence (“The twenty-page instruction manual was completely incomprehensible”), no comma is needed outside the parentheses.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Other Punctuation Errors

Replace the underlined section with the answer that best results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. 

The terribly, ill widower was isolated both by illness and by the death of his close family; he was a virtual recluse.

Possible Answers:

The terribly, ill widower was isolated: both by illness and by the death of his close family, he was a virtual recluse.

The terribly, ill widower was isolated both by illness and by the death of his close family, he was a virtual recluse.

The terribly, ill widower was isolated both by illness and by the death of his close family; he was a virtual recluse.

The terribly ill widower was isolated both by illness and by the death of his close family; he was a virtual recluse.

The terribly ill widower was isolated: both by illness and by the death of his close family; he was a virtual recluse.

Correct answer:

The terribly ill widower was isolated both by illness and by the death of his close family; he was a virtual recluse.

Explanation:

No comma should separate an adverb and adjective that immediately precede a noun. The correct form is “terribly ill widower.” Elsewhere, the semicolon correctly separates two independent clauses. There is no need for a colon anywhere in the sentence.

Example Question #8 : Correcting Other Punctuation Errors

Replace the underlined section with the answer that best results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. 

The two year old boy was a thorough nuisance at brunch, biting and screaming so much that none of the other diners could enjoy their meal. 

Possible Answers:

The two-year-old boy was a thorough nuisance at brunch, biting and screaming so much that none of the other diners could enjoy their meal. 

The two year old boy was a thorough nuisance at brunch, biting and screaming so much that none of the other diners could enjoy their meal. 

The two-year-old boy was a thorough nuisance at brunch, biting and screaming such that none of the other diners could enjoy their meal. 

The two-year-old boy was a thorough nuisance at brunch; biting and screaming so much that none of the other diners could enjoy their meal. 

The two year old boy was a thorough nuisance at brunch; biting and screaming so much that none of the other diners could enjoy its meal. 

Correct answer:

The two-year-old boy was a thorough nuisance at brunch, biting and screaming so much that none of the other diners could enjoy their meal. 

Explanation:

Here, “two year old” is a compound adjective that immediately precedes a noun, so it must be hyphenated. “The two-year-old boy” is the correct punctuation. No semicolon is required in this sentence, since a comma is the correct punctuation to separate the main and dependent clauses.

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