New SAT Writing and Language : Punctuation

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for New SAT Writing and Language

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Commas

There are two different ways to consider the so-called “Dark Ages.” On the one hand, you can think of the period directly after the fall of the Roman Empire, when civilization began to collapse throughout the Western Empire. On the other hand, you can consider the period that followed this initial collapse of society. It is a gross simplification too use the adjective dark to describe the civilization of either of these periods.

As regards the first period, it is quite a simplification to consider this period to be a single historical moment. It is not as though the civilization switched off like a lightbulb. At one moment light and then, at the next, dark. Instead, the decline of civilization occurred over a period of numerous decades and was, in fact, already occurring for many years before the so-called period of darkness. Thus, the decline of civilization was not a rapid collapse into barbarism, but instead, was a slow alteration of the cultural milieu of a partition of Europe. Indeed, the Eastern Roman Empire retained much of it’s cultural status during these years of decline!

More importantly, the period following the slow collapse of the Western Empire was much less “dark” than almost every popular telling states. Indeed, even during the period of decline, the seeds for cultural restoration was being sown. A key element of this cultural revival were the formation of monastic communities throughout the countryside of what we now know as Europe. Although these were not the only positive force during these centuries, the monasteries had played an important role in preserving and advancing the cause of culture through at least the thirteenth century and arguably until the Renaissance.

How should the underlined section be changed?

Possible Answers:

Thus, the decline of civilization was not a rapid collapse into barbarism but, instead, was a slow alteration of the cultural milieu of a portion of Europe.

Thus, the decline of civilization was not a rapid collapse into barbarism but, instead, were a slow alteration of the cultural milieu of a portion of Europe.

Thus, the decline of civilization was not a rapid collapse into barbarism, but instead was a slow alteration of the cultural milieu of a portion of Europe.

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

Thus, the decline of civilization was not a rapid collapse into barbarism but, instead, was a slow alteration of the cultural milieu of a portion of Europe.

Explanation:

As written, this sentence has two issues. The first is its use of a comma directly before the conjunction "but." Such a comma is used only when you have two independent clauses being joined. Since the subject does not change, you do not have two wholly independent clauses. Secondly, the sentence needs a comma before the word "instead" to set that word off from the rest of the sentence, as it slightly interrupts the flow of the main idea.

Example Question #1 : Punctuation

There once was a shepherd boy whom sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. He was hot and exhausted fanning himself, rapidly in a feeble attempt to cool himself down. On top of that, he had never been so bored before. To amuse himself, he decided to play a joke. He put his hands around his mouth and yelled in a loud voice, "Wolf! Wolf! A wolf is chasing the sheep!”

They came running. They asked the boy, “What’s going on? Did you yell ‘A wolf is chasing the sheep?’”

The boy laughed. “It was just a joke, everyone.”

The people fumed, but they all returned to their homes.

The next day, the boy bored again decided to amuse himself again. He bellowed, “Wolf! Wolf!” Again, the townspeople came running. Once they arrived and witnessed the laughing boy, they realized they’d been tricked a second time. Nonetheless, they returned home and irritated resolved to never fall for the trick again for third time.

The next day, the boy was watching his sheep. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a wolf appeared from behind the bushes. With its teeth bared, the boy cowered as the wolf approached the sheep. Terrified, he called, “Help! A wolf! A wolf is here!” The people ignored his cries. “That mischievous boy,” they all said to one another. “He must think he can fool us again.” But not one of them came running.

No one was there to witness as the wolf ate every last sheep on the hillside, as the boy helplessly cowered behind a bush. As the boy hid, he shook his head. “I shall never fib again,” he resolved to himself.

How should the underlined section be corrected?

Possible Answers:

With its teeth bared, the wolf approached the sheep as the boy cowered.

With bared teeth the boy cowered as the wolf the sheep approached.

Its teeth was bared as the wolf approached the sheep and the boy was cowering as it did so.

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

With its teeth bared, the wolf approached the sheep as the boy cowered.

Explanation:

In the original sentence, the boy is the subject of the sentence, so the phrase "with its teeth bared" would be a modifier for him. The author was intending to use this phrase to describe the wolf, so one has to choose an option in which the phrase clearly modifies the wolf. In "With its teeth bared, the wolf approached...," the wolf is the subject of the sentence, so the modifier applies correctly. 

The sentence, "With bared teeth the boy cowered as the wolf the sheep approached" does not fix the modifier, and it is confusing to read without a comma setting off the prepositional phrase, "with bared teeth." The sentence, "Its teeth was bared as the wolf approached the sheep and the boy was cowering as it did so," is needlessly wordy. The sentence, "With his teeth bared, the boy cowered as the wolf approached the sheep" still has a misplaced modifier, and now that "his" is added, it is significantly more confusing.

Example Question #2 : Punctuation

There once was a shepherd boy whom sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. He was hot and exhausted fanning himself, rapidly in a feeble attempt to cool himself down. On top of that, he had never been so bored before. To amuse himself, he decided to play a joke. He put his hands around his mouth and yelled in a loud voice, "Wolf! Wolf! A wolf is chasing the sheep!”

They came running. They asked the boy, “What’s going on? Did you yell ‘A wolf is chasing the sheep?’”

The boy laughed. “It was just a joke, everyone.”

The people fumed, but they all returned to their homes.

The next day, the boy bored again decided to amuse himself again. He bellowed, “Wolf! Wolf!” Again, the townspeople came running. Once they arrived and witnessed the laughing boy, they realized they’d been tricked a second time. Nonetheless, they returned home and irritated resolved to never fall for the trick again for third time.

The next day, the boy was watching his sheep. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a wolf appeared from behind the bushes. With its teeth bared, the boy cowered as the wolf approached the sheep. Terrified, he called, “Help! A wolf! A wolf is here!” The people ignored his cries. “That mischievous boy,” they all said to one another. “He must think he can fool us again.” But not one of them came running.

No one was there to witness as the wolf ate every last sheep on the hillside, as the boy helplessly cowered behind a bush. As the boy hid, he shook his head. “I shall never fib again,” he resolved to himself.

How should the underlined section be corrected?

Possible Answers:

they returned home and irritated, resolved

they returned home and, irritated, resolved

they returned home and irritably resolving

NO CHANGE

they returned home and irritated resolved,

Correct answer:

they returned home and, irritated, resolved

Explanation:

The word "irritated" is an interrupter, and should be set off by commas on either side. Adding a comma after "irritated" makes the first part of the phrase "they returned home and irritated," which is incorrect as "returned" and "irritated" are not parallel. 

Changing the phrase to "irritably resolving" ruins the parallelism of the sentence, with "resolving" not matching "returned". Adding a comma to the end of the phrase does not fix the issue of the interrupter, and it also ruins parallelism by making "returned" and "irritated" a pair. Therefore, the only correct answer is "they returned home and, irritated, resolved."

Example Question #2 : Commas

There once was a shepherd boy whom sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. He was hot and exhausted fanning himself, rapidly in a feeble attempt to cool himself down. On top of that, he had never been so bored before. To amuse himself, he decided to play a joke. He put his hands around his mouth and yelled in a loud voice, "Wolf! Wolf! A wolf is chasing the sheep!”

They came running. They asked the boy, “What’s going on? Did you yell ‘A wolf is chasing the sheep?’”

The boy laughed. “It was just a joke, everyone.”

The people fumed, but they all returned to their homes.

The next day, the boy bored again decided to amuse himself again. He bellowed, “Wolf! Wolf!” Again, the townspeople came running. Once they arrived and witnessed the laughing boy, they realized they’d been tricked a second time. Nonetheless, they returned home and irritated resolved to never fall for the trick again for third time.

The next day, the boy was watching his sheep. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a wolf appeared from behind the bushes. With its teeth bared, the boy cowered as the wolf approached the sheep. Terrified, he called, “Help! A wolf! A wolf is here!” The people ignored his cries. “That mischievous boy,” they all said to one another. “He must think he can fool us again.” But not one of them came running.

No one was there to witness as the wolf ate every last sheep on the hillside, as the boy helplessly cowered behind a bush. As the boy hid, he shook his head. “I shall never fib again,” he resolved to himself.

How should the underlined section be corrected?

Possible Answers:

He was hot and exhausted, fanning himself rapidly in a feeble attempt to cool himself down.

NO CHANGE

He was hot and exhausted fanning himself rapidly in a feeble attempt to cool himself down.

He was hot, and exhausted, fanning himself rapidly in a feeble attempt to cool himself down.

He was hot and exhausted fanning him, rapidly in a feeble attempt to cool him down.

Correct answer:

He was hot and exhausted, fanning himself rapidly in a feeble attempt to cool himself down.

Explanation:

Commas should be used to separate a dependent clause from an independent clause. The independent clause in this sentence is "He was hot and exhausted," while the dependent clause is "fanning himself rapidly in a feeble attempt to cool himself down." To separate the main clause from the dependent clause, a comma should be put between the word "exhausted" and "fanning."

Example Question #144 : New Sat Writing And Language

There once was a shepherd boy whom sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. He was hot and exhausted fanning himself, rapidly in a feeble attempt to cool himself down. On top of that, he had never been so bored before. To amuse himself, he decided to play a joke. He put his hands around his mouth and yelled in a loud voice, "Wolf! Wolf! A wolf is chasing the sheep!”

They came running. They asked the boy, “What’s going on? Did you yell ‘A wolf is chasing the sheep?’”

The boy laughed. “It was just a joke, everyone.”

The people fumed, but they all returned to their homes.

The next day, the boy bored again decided to amuse himself again. He bellowed, “Wolf! Wolf!” Again, the townspeople came running. Once they arrived and witnessed the laughing boy, they realized they’d been tricked a second time. Nonetheless, they returned home and irritated resolved to never fall for the trick again for third time.

The next day, the boy was watching his sheep. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a wolf appeared from behind the bushes. With its teeth bared, the boy cowered as the wolf approached the sheep. Terrified, he called, “Help! A wolf! A wolf is here!” The people ignored his cries. “That mischievous boy,” they all said to one another. “He must think he can fool us again.” But not one of them came running.

No one was there to witness as the wolf ate every last sheep on the hillside, as the boy helplessly cowered behind a bush. As the boy hid, he shook his head. “I shall never fib again,” he resolved to himself.

How should the underlined section be corrected?

Possible Answers:

To amuse himself: he decided to play a joke.

NO CHANGE

To bemuse himself he decided to play a joke.

To amuse himself; he decided to play a joke.

To amuse himself he decided to play a joke.

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

The underlined sentence is correct as written. The introductory phrase "to amuse himself," is correctly separated from the main clause "he decided to play a joke" with a comma. The introductory phrase accurately and necessarily contextualizes the simple subject-verb-object main clause. All of the other options, in fact, add grammatical or punctuation errors.

Example Question #2 : Punctuation

Are you trying to stick to a budget? Using coupons for purchases, also known as “couponing” is a great way to save money on groceries. Coupons are a little piece of paper that can give you a discount on what you buy. You will be amazed at the great bargains and amazing savings you can get!

It’s easy to get started. When you open up your daily newspaper, one might find a glossy insert full of coupons. Some of the coupons will be for things you don’t buy, some will be for things you buy all the time. Go through the coupons and chop out the ones you can use.

The key to successful couponing is getting multiple copies of coupon circulars. Ask your friends, your neighbors, and family if they have any extras. Some coupon users even go through the recycling at their office to find more coupons! Have you ever heard of such a thing in your life! Completely devoted, these circulars help coupon users to get even more savings.

Couponing might sound like hard work, but for many people, it’s also a hobby. Not only does it help them save hundreds of dollars per year, but also it gives them a fun challenge every time they do their shopping. 

How should the underlined section be corrected?

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

Some of the coupons will be for things you don’t buy and some will be for things you buy all the time.

Some of the coupons will be for things you don’t buy but some will be for things you buy all the time.

Some of the coupons will be for things you don’t buy, but some will be for things you buy all the time.

Some of the coupons will be for things you don’t buy some will be for things you buy all the time.

Correct answer:

Some of the coupons will be for things you don’t buy, but some will be for things you buy all the time.

Explanation:

This question asks you to correct a comma splice error. A comma splice occurs when two complete sentences are joined with just a comma. We have two options to correct a comma splice. We can either replace the comma with a period to create two complete sentences, or we can use a comma and a conjunction. In this context, the second sentence provides a contrast to the first sentence, so it is appropriate to use a comma and the conjunction “but.” Eliminating the comma creates a run-on sentence even if the conjunction "but" is added. The use of the conjunction "and" is grammatically correct, but it is not as strong a choice since it does not communicate the contrast between the two sentences. 

Example Question #3 : Commas

The Moluccas is a chain, or archetype, of islands belonging to Indonesia. Historically, these islands were known as the Spice Islands for their abundance of nutmeg, cloves, mace, and pepper, this profundity of spices eventually drew colonial attention. Spices such as cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, anise, and pepper were particularly popular during the medieval times. In the 1600s, the Spice Wars arose as a result of competing Portuguese and Dutch interest’s in the Spice Islands. The bloody conflict ended in the deaths of many native Moluccans as well as European traders, wherefore both Portugal and the Netherlands gained and lost territories ranging from Africa and South America. For this day, strife occasionally breaks out on the islands although it is now motivated by religious and not colonial disagreements. It is located just west of New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean, and its more than 1,000 islands are home to more than 2 million people today.

How should the underlined section be corrected?

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

For this day, strife occasionally breaks out on the islands; although it is now motivated by religious and not colonial disagreements.

For this day strife occasionally breaks out on the islands although it is now motivated by religious and not colonial disagreements.

For this day, strife occasionally breaks out on the islands, although it is now motivated by religious and not colonial disagreements.

For this day strife occasionally breaks out on the islands, although it is now motivated by religious and not colonial disagreements.

Correct answer:

For this day, strife occasionally breaks out on the islands, although it is now motivated by religious and not colonial disagreements.

Explanation:

The underlined sentence, "For this day, strife occasionally breaks out on the islands although it is now motivated by religious and not colonial disagreements," contains an independent clause (“For this day, strife occasionally breaks out on the islands”) and a dependent clause (“although it is now motivated by religious and not colonial disagreements”), so a comma must be used to separate them. A comma is also needed after introductory phrases such as “For this day.” Semi-colons can never be used to join a dependent clause to an independent clause, neither can a colon.

Example Question #2 : Punctuation

Canoeing in white-water, the fast, shallow sections of water in a river, can be both exhilarating and terrifying.​

Possible Answers:

white-water the fast, shallow sections of water in a river,

NO CHANGE

white-water the fast, shallow sections of water in a river​

white-water; the fast, shallow sections of water in a river,​

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

In this example, we are tested on the use of commas to separate modifying clauses and items in a list. In the sentence, “the fast, shallow sections of water in a river” is a nonessential, appositive modifying phrase, and should thus be offset with commas. Our original construction effectively accomplishes this, while separating the two adjectives describing the sections of water, “fast” and “shallow”, with a comma. “white-water the fast, shallow sections of water in a river” lacks the necessary punctuation to separate the appositive modifier, while “white-water the fast, shallow sections of water in a river,” seems to begin the modifier at the word “shallow,” an illogical construction in this example. Finally, “white-water; the fast, shallow sections of water in a river,​” inappropriately separates a dependent clause “Canoeing in white-water” with a semicolon, whereas a semicolon should be used to separate two independent clauses.

Example Question #4 : Commas

Many people admire the melodic lilt of Portuguese a language derived from Latin, yet few of them are successful in learning this difficult language.

Possible Answers:

of, Portuguese a language derived from Latin,​

of Portuguese, a language derived from Latin,​

NO CHANGE

of Portuguese, a language derived from Latin

Correct answer:

of Portuguese, a language derived from Latin,​

Explanation:

In this example, we are tested on the use of commas to separate a non-essential modifier in the sentence. Here, “a language derived from Latin” functions as an appositive modifier (a noun phrase that renames another noun) modifying “Portugese.” The answer choice that reads “of Portuguese, a language derived from Latin,​” is our correct answer, as it appropriately separates the non-essential, appositive modifier “a language derived from latin” with commas on either side. All other answer choices either omit one of those two necessary commas, or misplace the comma before Portuguese, where it would be illogical in the context of the sentence.

Example Question #9 : Commas

The river curves through the desert like a ribbon twisting, and bending for hundreds of miles.

Possible Answers:

ribbon, twisting and bending​

ribbon twisting and bending,​

ribbon, twisting, and bending,

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

ribbon, twisting and bending​

Explanation:

In this example, we are tested on the use of commas to separate a modifying clause in a sentence. Here, “twisting and bending for hundreds of miles” is a participial modifier modifying the river, and should be offset by a comma. “ribbon, twisting and bending​” accomplishes this, as it separates the complete modifying phrase, “twisting and bending for hundreds of miles”, with a comma. The original construction makes the mistake of locating the comma after twisting - an illogical construction, since the modifier begins with the word “twisting.” Similarly, “ribbon twisting and bending,​” seems to introduce the start of the modifier at “for hundreds of miles,” and does not encompass the full modifying phrase. “ribbon, twisting, and bending,​” seems to introduce three items in a list, which is also illogical, as ribbon, twisting, and bending, cannot logically be constructed as three parallel items in a list.

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