SAT Writing : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas in Lists

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 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.

The adviser's job is to apprise the president of developing conflicts in the countries of Kenya Somalia and Tanzania. No error.

Possible Answers:

to apprise

No error.

of developing

adviser's job

of Kenya Somalia and Tanzania

Correct answer:

of Kenya Somalia and Tanzania

Explanation:

The list "Kenya Somalia and Tanzania" contains this sentence's error because it does not use commas to separate its items. It should read "Kenya, Somalia, and Tanzania."

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.

There’s so much I want to do today: go to the beach, mow the lawn, bake a cake; and play chess. No error

Possible Answers:

today:

beach,

cake;

No error

lawn,

Correct answer:

cake;

Explanation:

Because the part of the sentence before the list is an independent clause, a colon is the correct punctuation mark to use to introduce the list. Because the items in the list are “simple” (in other words, they don’t contain multiple phrases and commas), commas, not semicolons, are the correct punctuation mark to use between each item. Also, since the non-underlined portion of the list already uses commas, the semicolon needs to be changed to a comma to match.

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.

Tripping on the sidewalk, breaking down in a public place, spilling a drink on oneself, having something caught between one's teeth—all are humiliating moments for a person. No error

Possible Answers:

teeth—all

place,

yourself

sidewalk,

No error

Correct answer:

No error

Explanation:

The items in this list should each be separated by a comma. (An "and" could appear between the last two items in the list, but it's not strictly necessary.) The list itself is correctly separated from the second part of the sentence by an em-dash, although a colon would also be acceptable. Therefore, the sentence is correct without any changes.

Example Question #4 : 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.

You have: a stunning smile, a charming laugh, and a great personality; what’s not to like? No error

Possible Answers:

laugh,

No error

have:

smile,

personality;

Correct answer:

have:

Explanation:

Because the part of the sentence before the list (“You have”) is not an independent clause (a complete sentence that could stand on its own), a colon should not be used to introduce the list in this sentence. Colons are only used to introduce lists that come after independent clauses.

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.

Sam, Quinn, and their sister, Leah, decided to start their own garden in the vacant lot next to their house. No error

Possible Answers:

Leah,

Sam,

sister,

Quinn,

No error

Correct answer:

No error

Explanation:

Here, the list is punctuated correctly. There should be a comma between each item in the list and an additional comma on either side of “Leah,” which modifies “their sister.” (If “their sister, Leah,” was the first or second item in the list, a semicolon would be needed to separate the items for clarity’s sake, but in this version of the sentence it’s not necessary; the relationship of the three people is perfectly clear in this order.)

Example Question #6 : 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.

I was hoping we wouldn’t have to go over the preliminary sketches blueprints, or plans. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

go over

sketches

was hoping

blueprints,

Correct answer:

sketches

Explanation:

A comma is needed to separate each item in the list: “preliminary sketches,” “blueprints,” and “plans.”

Example Question #4 : 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.

Which do you think is best: coffee, tea, or juice? No error

Possible Answers:

No error

coffee,

Which

best,

tea,

Correct answer:

No error

Explanation:

This sentence is properly punctuated, since a comma is required between each item in a list and the colon is properly used to introduce the list.

Example Question #211 : 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. 

The Día de los Muertos event at school featured a dinner consisting of a burrito bar a taco station, and three varieties of flan. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

consisting of 

three varieties

featured 

bar a 

Correct answer:

bar a 

Explanation:

The list of features of the event is missing a comma between "bar" and "a" that would correctly distinguish all three features.

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