New SAT Writing and Language : Punctuation

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Punctuation

One of the most influential niche constructors is the earthworm, an organism found almost everywhere on the planet. A scientist only concerned with evolution would predict that, in order to live on land, earthworms would have to significantly change. Earthworms didn’t change their physiology a great 1 amount, however, instead, they changed the soil to make it more like the ocean in order to survive. Land with earthworms is less compacted, is more nutrient rich, and is better mixed than land without them – leading to monumental changes in the ecosystem.

Possible Answers:

amount, however; instead,

amount - however, instead

NO CHANGE 

 amount; however, instead,

Correct answer:

amount, however; instead,

Explanation:

This question asks you to differentiate between different types of punctuation used to divide sentences and where to divide those sentences. Because you are linking two complete sentences, you need either a semicolon or a dash, meaning that you can eliminate NO CHANGE. The second question is where to split the sentences. Note that both "however" and "instead" are transition words. Because of this, it doesn't make sense to have them back to back in the same half of the sentence. Instead, you should have a piece of punctuation separating the two transition words. The only answer that does this is "amount, however; instead,", which places a semicolon between "however" and "instead".

Example Question #1 : Punctuation

Niche constructors are particularly important in colonizing new environments. One of the easiest ways to measure this effect on evolution has been in the effect that the number of earthworms has on soil fertility, a measure of how hospitable an environment is to plant growth. Even the least fertile soil has around 62 worms per square meter, and as the number of worms increases so does soil fertility. As worms move through the different layers of soil, they eat, digest, and excrete massive amounts of organic matter. They leave their excretions behind in the form of nutrient-rich droppings known as casings. As these casings decompose, they release nutrients into the soil. This process not only moves nutrients from one layer of the soil to another but also converts the nutrients to forms that plants can absorb and process more easily. Because it is easier for plants to get the proper nutrients, plants don’t have to invest time and energy into making better root systems to gather nutrients. As a result, plants have, over time, lost some of these 1 mechanisms – a form of evolution. 

Possible Answers:

 mechanisms; which is a form

mechanisms a form

NO CHANGE

mechanisms, of which this is a form

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

This question asks you to choose between types of punctuation at a single point. The best way to do this is generally going to be process of elimination. As it's written in the passage, a dash is used to append a short explanation to the end of a complete sentence. Because this is an acceptable use of a dash it is the correct answer. Choice "mechanisms a form" can be eliminated because it doesn't use any punctuation to add the additional information, leading to an illogical runon. Choice "mechanisms, of which this is a form" is both wordy and redundant and can be eliminated despite the fact that the comma is an acceptable piece of punctuation here. Choice " mechanisms; which is a form" can be eliminated since you can only use a semicolon to separate two complete sentences.

Example Question #1 : Punctuation

The traditional view of archaeologists usually involves a college professor who spends much of his or her time digging and researching in ancient foreign libraries or a museum curator who works every day to preserve the artifacts the museum holds. While this view isn’t completely incorrect, it is incomplete, both in terms of the types of jobs available to archaeologists and in terms of the types of work within those jobs. For example, college professors may spend summers at dig sites, but much of their time is also spent writing grants, teaching students, and writing about their research projects. Additionally, although there are still many people who work in archaeology as professors and museum 1 curators. The demand for these job far outstrips the number of positions available, making the positions difficult to acquire.

Possible Answers:

curators, but the

curators, the

NO CHANGE

curators; the

Correct answer:

curators, the

Explanation:

This question asks you to choose among different was to connect two clauses. Remember that if you are connecting two complete sentences you can do so using a semicolon or a comma with a conjunction. You can also divide the two sentences with a period. However, in order to do any of these you need to have a complete sentence on either side of the piece of punctuation. Since the first clause contains the word "although," it cannot be a complete sentence since it does not have both a subject and verb. This means that you can't use any piece of punctuation that requires a complete sentence on either side, eliminating "NO CHANGE", "curators; the" and "curators, but the".

Example Question #2 : Punctuation

As the research progresses, they must present their findings in both written and oral reports to stakeholders in the project. Depending on the site and what they find, CRM archaeologists may also work with architects and 1 planners. This work is to revise building sites to protect sensitive areas. So while everyday archaeologists may not be involved in saving the world from existential threats, they do play an important role in society, helping us preserve and consider the past even as we plan for the future. As cities and communities continue to expand, the work they do will only grow in importance.

Which of the following most effectively combines the sentences at the underlined portion?

Possible Answers:

planners, and they work to

planners to

planners; they work to  

planners, which is to

Correct answer:

planners to

Explanation:

Whenever the SAT Writing and Language section asks you to combine two sentences, remember that you are looking for an answer that it both concise and grammatically correct. While several of the answer choices aren't good writing, none is explicitly incorrect. Thus, you should look for the shortest answer that maintains the meaning of the initial sentences. "Planners; they work to  " and "planners, and they work to" combine the sentences by either replacing the period with a semicolon or a comma and the word "and." This does not improve the concision of the sentence and can be eliminated. Similarly,"planners, which is to" adds in extra words to connect the two sentences, leaving a less concise and more confusing sentences than you started with. "Planners to" is correct, combining the sentences in such a way as to decrease the wordiness of the sentence and maintain meaning.

Example Question #2 : Punctuation

Ecosystems are made of a complex system of energy and nutrient transfers from one organism to another. Some of these transfers are in the form of 1 predation: one organism eating another – while others are in the form of ecosystem engineering, an organism changing the environment around them. One major form of ecosystem engineering is niche creation. Niche creation is the process of an organism changing their environment to create a competitive advantage. In order for an organism to be considered as creating a niche, three things must be true: the organism must significantly modify their environment, those changes must affect other organisms’ survival, and those changes must lead to an evolutionary response in another organism.

Possible Answers:

predation; one

predation, one

predation – one

NO CHANGE
Correct answer:

predation – one

Explanation:

Whenever you are asked to differentiated between different ways to offset a piece of extra information within a sentence (also known as an appositive), remember that many different forms of punctuation are acceptable. The main requirement is that you use a pair of matching pieces of punctuation rather than mixing different kinds of punctuation. Because the other half of this appositive is bounded by a dash, it also needs to start with a dash, meaning that answer "predation – one" is the only possible answer. "Predation: one"  can be eliminated because what follows the colon is too complex to be an acceptable construction, "predation, one" mixes a dash with a comma, which isn't acceptable, and "predation; one" uses a semicolon, which isn't acceptable since what follows is not a complete sentence.

Example Question #2 : Punctuation

For thousands of years, cooking was considered more of a practice than a science. Much of what chefs and food scientists alike knew about cooking came from conventional wisdom rather than carefully designed research. For individuals who considered cooking to be an art rather than a science, this seemed to be for the best; however, for physicist Nicholas Kurti and chemist Herve This, the lack on empirical knowledge around what we eat was not just an affront to science. It was a challenge. In 1988 the pair coined the term “molecular 1 gastronomy,” which they defined as the investigation of the physical and chemical transformation that ingredients undergo during the course of cooking. They argued that if chefs understood these processes, they could produce dishes improved by the findings. 

Possible Answers:

gastronomy;” which

NO CHANGE

gastronomy;”

gastronomy,”

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

You are presented with two choices within question: between a comma and semicolon and between including and not including the word which. Remember that in order to use a semicolon you need to have a complete sentence on either side of the semicolon. Neither choice using the semicolon has a complete sentence following the semicolon, meaning that both "gastronomy;”" and "gastronomy;” which" can be eliminated. Between choices how it's written in the passage and "gastronomy,”", you need to decide whether to include or not include the word "which". Since without the word "which" the phrase following the comma doesn't clearly relate to anything before the comma, you must use the word which in this case. NO CHANGE is correct.

Example Question #152 : New Sat Writing And Language

The Sagrada Familia has stood, incomplete, as part of the Barcelona skyline since the early phases of its construction in 1882. The project, originally intended to be a cathedral in the gothic style, was begun by the bookseller Joseph Maria Bocabella under the direction of the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. Del Villar and Bocabella imagined a basilica modeled on the Gothic revival churches Bocabella had seen on trips to Italy. However, Bocabella’s ideal basilica never came to be. In 1883 del Villar resigned from the project, and 30-year old Antoni Gaudi, a young but already well known architect from Catalonia, took over as lead architect.

Gaudi decided to depart from del Villar’s original Gothic design in favor of a more modern design. The new design was ambitious, featuring eighteen tall spires and four different facades on different sides of the basilica. But work on the new building was slow. Decades passed, and the work was still incomplete. In 1 1915, Gaudi - now 63 years old - abandoned all other work in favor of dedicating himself to the completion of the monumental church, but progress on the building was still slow. When pressured to speed up work on the monumental building, Gaudi was said to have replied, “My client is not in a hurry.”  By the time Gaudi died in 1926, the basilica was only somewhere between 15 and 20 percent complete.

Possible Answers:

1915, Gaudi, now 63 years old abandoned

1915, Gaudi – now 63 years old abandoned

1915, Gaudi, now 63 years old –

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

Whenever you see commas or dashes used to offset a piece of nonessential information, remember that either piece of punctuation is correct as long as it is consistent. If you use one dash, you need to close with a dash (or end the sentence) and if you use one comma, you need to close the thought with a comma. Each of the wrong answers either uses the comma or dash by itself without correctly closing off the other side of the additional information or incorrectly pairs the comma and dash together. The only answer choice that has the same piece of punctuation on their side of the added information is NO CHANGE, which adds a dash on either side of the additional information.

Example Question #3 : Punctuation

The pair brought scientific thinking and equipment to the kitchen, challenging perceptions about what belonged in the lab and what belonged in a chef ’s kitchen. For example, an early experiment in pie baking involved injecting pies with a syringe full of liquid after baking in order to preserve the crust. Other experiments involved creating 16 meringue, (cooked whipped egg whites with sugar) in a vacuum chamber and a “reverse” baked Alaska (ice cream topped with meringue) with the hot merengue on the inside and the ice cream on the outside. Although the experiments themselves might not have been useful to the home cook, they did give insights into the science of cooking that improved recipes and techniques for cooks everywhere.

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

meringue – cooked whipped egg whites with sugar –

meringue, cooked whipped egg whites with sugar,

meringue (cooked whipped egg whites with sugar)

Correct answer:

meringue (cooked whipped egg whites with sugar)

Explanation:

This question has two major decision points: whether to use parentheses or another form of punctuation and whether a comma is necessary after the word meringue. In order to preserve parallelism in the sentence, you need to use the parentheses rather than a pair of commas or dashes since parentheses are used later in the sentence for the same purpose. However, there is no comma necessary after the word meringue. If you eliminate the portion of the sentence in parentheses, it becomes "creating meringue in a vacuum chamber." Since it doesn't make sense to separate the act of making meringue from where it's made (where it's made isn't unnecessary information) the comma isn't necessary.

Example Question #395 : New Sat

Alexander Graham Bell is commonly credited with the invention of the telephone; but the first documented phrase transmitted by an electromagnetic device can actually be attributed to inventor Johann Philipp Reis in 1860.

Possible Answers:

telephone, the first documented phrase

NO CHANGE

telephone, but the first documented phrase

telephone the first documented phrase

Correct answer:

telephone, but the first documented phrase

Explanation:

In this example, we are tested on the use of punctuation to separate clauses. In the original construction, we have used a semicolon to separate the independent clause “Alexander Graham Bell is commonly credited with the invention of the telephone” from the dependent clause introduced by the conjunction “but.” This construction is incorrect, as we utilize the semicolon to separate two independent clauses (without a conjunction) in much the same way we would a period. The answer choices that remove the conjunction “but” seem to correct this issue, but introduce a new error by creating either a run-on sentence that lacks the appropriate punctuation or transition: “telephone the first documented phrase” or a comma splice where a comma is incorrectly used to break up two independent clauses without the necessary coordinating conjunction: “telephone, the first documented phrase.” Our correct answer: “telephone, but the first documented phrase” appropriately separates two independent clauses with a comma and the coordinating conjunction “but.”

Example Question #161 : New Sat Writing And Language

Living in the arctic tundra and exhibiting a low surface area to volume ratio in order to conserve heat; the arctic hare serves as an excellent example of adaptation among wild species of mammals.

Possible Answers:

heat, arctic hares

heat: the arctic hare

heat, the arctic hare

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

heat, the arctic hare

Explanation:

In order to effectively address punctuation-driven errors, like the one we see here, we’ll want to pay close attention to the roles elements of our sentence play. Here, “Living in the arctic tundra and exhibiting a low surface area to volume ratio in order to conserve heat” are modifying phrases, introduced by the participial modifiers “living” and “exhibiting.” Since the portion before the punctuation represents a set of modifying phrases and not a complete clause that could stand on its own, it would not be appropriate to separate this portion of the sentence using a colon or a semicolon. Both of these constructions require the portion before the punctuation to represent an independent clause. So, “heat; the arctic hare” (our original construction) and “heat: the arctic hare” can be eliminated. 

From here, our remaining options both utilize the appropriate punctuation, the comma, to set apart our introductory modifiers. However, “heat, arctic hares” inappropriately structures the sentence with a plural subject, “arctic hares,” which does not agree with the singular verb “serves” that immediately follows in the non-underlined portion. Thus, “heat, the arctic hare” is our correct answer. 

Keep in mind, examples on the SAT may ask us to combine our knowledge of different error categories in one question, as they have here - so be prepared to seek out and prioritize differences as you encounter them in your writing answer choices!

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