SAT Writing : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Comma Splices

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas

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

The eldest male dog became awfully selfish during feeding time, he would not even let his own pups get a scrap of food. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

awfully

feeding

eldest

time, he

Correct answer:

time, he

Explanation:

Two independent clauses that can each stand alone must be separated by either a period or a semicolon, or connected by a comma followed by a conjunction. Because this sentence doesn't include a conjunction like "and" after its comma, it is incorrect. (This error, where two independent clauses are incorrectly connected by a comma, is known as a "comma splice.")

Example Question #1 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas

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

Anna, questioning her decision, looked to her brother, however he wouldn't meet her eye. No error

Possible Answers:

decision, looked

wouldn't meet

brother, however

No error

Anna, questioning

Correct answer:

brother, however

Explanation:

The clause, "however, he wouldn't meet her eye," is an independent clause and must be separated by a semicolon or a coordinating conjunction.

Example Question #2 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas

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

I stayed up late last night baking chocolate chip cookies, this morning when I woke up the house smelled so good that it made me hungry. No error

Possible Answers:

stayed up late

cookies,

baking

No error

smelled so good

Correct answer:

cookies,

Explanation:

This is a run-on sentence. The two independent clauses need to be split into two separate sentences, or separated by a semicolon.

Example Question #4 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas

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

Car, bicycle, and bus are the only means of transportation in this city, there is no metro system available yetNo error

Possible Answers:

only

No error

bus are

available yet

city, there

Correct answer:

city, there

Explanation:

A comma should only be used to separate an independent clause from a dependent clause: here it is separating two independent clauses, so a period or semi-colon is more appropritate.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Comma Splices

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

The kids at the pumpkin patch screeched and spun around in circles all day, they bothered their teacher tremendouslyNo error

Possible Answers:

day, they

tremendously

in circles

No error

screeched

Correct answer:

day, they

Explanation:

This is an example of a comma splice. The two independent clauses should be separated by a period, a semi-colon, or a comma and a conjunction, not by just a comma, which is used to separate independent and dependent clauses.

Example Question #4 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas

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

How many times do I have to tell you, you have to tie the garbage bags securely or we will have animals in our trash. No error

Possible Answers:

securely

No error

we will have

you, you

How many times

Correct answer:

you, you

Explanation:

The first clause of this sentence, "How many times do I have to tell you," is actually a rhetorical question.  It is an independent clause and therefore must be separated with stronger punctuation than just a comma.  In this case, it would be appropriate to set it off as its own sentence, ending in a question mark, but regardless, the comma splice in "you, you" is what makes this sentence ungrammatical.

Example Question #5 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas

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

Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a truly useful substance, it can be used for cooking, baking, and cleaning. No error.

Possible Answers:

No error.

substance, it

truly useful

soda, also known

is

Correct answer:

substance, it

Explanation:

A comma cannot be used by itself to join two independent clauses, so "substance, it" contains this sentence's error. The first independent clause in this sentence is "Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a truly useful substance." The second independent clause is "It can be used for cooking, baking, and cleaning." Two independent clauses can be joined into a compound sentence in one of two ways: by using a comma followed by a conjunction or by using a semicolon.

Example Question #8 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas

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

Thomas had always struggled with trigonometry, he thought that circles should remain circles and let triangles and squiggles be their own shapes. No error

Possible Answers:

trigonometry, he

should remain

their

No error

had always struggled

Correct answer:

trigonometry, he

Explanation:

This sentence is an example of a run-on or comma splice. It has two independent clauses separated only by a comma. One way to fix this is to change the comma to a semicolon; if this were to be done, the corrected sentence would read, "Thomas had always struggled with trigonometry; he thought that circles should remain circles and let triangles and squiggles be their own shapes."

Example Question #6 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas

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

Cal, with his good looks and smug tone, came off as arrogant to Sarah, she refused to speak with him for longer than necessary. No error

Possible Answers:

than necessary

Cal, with 

Sarah, she

tone, came

No error

Correct answer:

Sarah, she

Explanation:

The clause, "she refused to speak with him for longer than necessary" is an independent clause and therefore must be separated from the sentence's initial independent clause ("Cal, with his good looks and smug tone, came off as arrogant to Sarah") with a semicolon, a comma followed by a conjunction, or a period, not just a comma.

Example Question #10 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas

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

I don't remember many Saturday morning cartoons, but May and John can name pretty much all of them, they were such huge fans of those shows. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

many

cartoons,

such huge fans

them, they

Correct answer:

them, they

Explanation:

The clause following "them" ("they were such huge fans of those shows") is an independent clause. It therefore needs to be joined to the first part of the sentence, the compound independent clause "I don't remember many Saturday morning cartoons, but May and John can name pretty much all of them") using a semicolon, a comma followed by a conjunction, or a period, not just a comma. (Note the correct use of a comma followed by the conjunction "but" in the sentence's initial compound independent clause.)

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