SAT Writing : Identifying Semicolon Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Writing

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Example Questions

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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 #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 #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.

During Roman times, Julius Caesar was well known not only for his superior strategy on the battlefield; but also for his oratorical abilities. No error.

Possible Answers:

battlefield; but

No error.

well known

was

also for

Correct answer:

battlefield; but

Explanation:

A semicolon is used to connect two independent clauses. In this case, the phrase that follows the semicolon is not an independent clause (a complete sentence that can stand on its own), so the use of a semicolon here is incorrect. Changing the semicolon to a comma would correct the sentence's error.

Example Question #3 : 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.

James's grocery list included the following items; broccoli, frozen yogurt, bread, pork chops, and eggs. No error

Possible Answers:

the following

pork chops, and

No error

included

items; broccoli

Correct answer:

items; broccoli

Explanation:

A colon, not a semicolon, should be used to introduce a list of things. Semicolons are only used to connect two independent clauses, or parts of a combined sentence that could each stand alone as an independent sentence. That isn't the case in this sentence; "broccoli, frozen yogurt, bread, pork chops, and eggs" is not a complete sentence.

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.

I was going to go for a run today, however, the stormy weather caused me to postpone my workout. No error

Possible Answers:

me to

No error

however, 

today,

was going

Correct answer:

today,

Explanation:

The sentence has two independent clauses. Each could be its own sentence: "I was going to go for a run today" and "the stormy weather caused me to postpone my workout." They are joined by a conjunctive adverb, "however." (Other conjunctive adverbs include "accordingly," "consequently," "hence," "moreover," "otherwise," "therefore," and "thus.") When two independent clauses are joined by a conjunctive adverb, they require a semicolon after the first clause, not a comma. The corrected sentence would read, "I was going to go for a run today; however, the stormy weather caused me to postpone my workout."

Example Question #3 : 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 martial art of karate is based around two main techniques; kicks and punches. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

is based

techniques;

and

of

Correct answer:

techniques;

Explanation:

The semicolon used after "techniques" is an inappropriate way to introduce a list. To correct this error, we should replace the semicolon with a colon. 

Example Question #6 : 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. 

Jamie and Geanna could not agree on what day would be best to go to the music festival; Jamie wanted to go see a great DJ on Saturday; while Geanna wanted to see her favorite band on Sunday. No error

Possible Answers:

festival;

what

No error

Saturday;

would be best

Correct answer:

Saturday;

Explanation:

The semicolon after "Saturday;" is the error in the sentence, and should be replaced with a comma to correctly separate the clauses. 

Example Question #7 : 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. 

Nathan has never been known as a shy person; and he proved that again tonight by jumping on stage and singing with the band. No error

Possible Answers:

by jumping

No error

person;

singing

has never been

Correct answer:

person;

Explanation:

The semicolon after "person" is incorrectly used in this sentence, and should be replaced with a comma. 

Example Question #4 : 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 guests will have several desserts to choose from; chocolate cake, lemon sorbet, peach pie, and flan. No error

Possible Answers:

from;

desserts

No error

sorbet,

choose

Correct answer:

from;

Explanation:

Here, we’re separating an independent clause (“The guests will have several desserts to choose from”) from a list (“chocolate cake, lemon sorbet, peach pie, and flan”), so the correct punctuation is a colon and not a semicolon. Semicolons are only used to separate two independent clauses, not an independent clause and a list.

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