PSAT Writing : Correcting Punctuation Errors: Commas

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

Example Question #21 : Correcting Punctuation Errors: Commas In Lists

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Reading writing, and arithmetic have long been considered the most basic building blocks of elementary education.

Possible Answers:

Reading, writing, and arithmetic, have

Reading writing and arithmetic have

Reading writing, and arithmetic have

Reading, writing, and arithmetic have

Reading writing and arithmetic, have

Correct answer:

Reading, writing, and arithmetic have

Explanation:

The list that is the subject of the sentence contains three separate elements, but only appropriately separates two of them. All lists of three or more elements need to have commas between each component. The only answer choice that appropriately does this is "Reading, writing, and arithmetic have."

Example Question #31 : Correcting Punctuation Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

In many thrilling mystery novels the good guy, actually turns out to be the bad guy.

Possible Answers:

mystery novels the good guy actually, turns out

mystery novels the good guy, actually turns out

mystery novels, the good guy actually turns out

mystery, novels the good guy actually turns out

Correct answer:

mystery novels, the good guy actually turns out

Explanation:

Use a comma to separate the introductory phrase "In many thrilling mystery novels" from the independent clause that in this case makes up the rest of the sentence, "the good guy actually turns out to be the bad guy."

Example Question #1 : Correcting Punctuation Errors: Commas For Introductory Or Interrupting Phrases

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

The coach always careful with his words intentionally avoided saying anything that a reporter could quote in the newspaper.

Possible Answers:

The coach always careful with his words intentionally avoided

The coach, always careful with his words, intentionally avoided

The coach always careful, with his words, intentionally avoided

The coach always careful with his words, intentionally avoided

The coach, always careful with his words intentionally avoided

Correct answer:

The coach, always careful with his words, intentionally avoided

Explanation:

The phrase "always careful with his words" is an interrupting phrase, one that adds information to the sentence, but remains apart from its structure. All interrupting phrases must be set apart from the rest of the sentence by commas. "The coach, always careful with his words, intentionally avoided" is the only answer choice to appropriately use commas around the interrupting phrase.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Punctuation Errors: Commas For Introductory Or Interrupting Phrases

The group's leader, a long time activist urged the group to take political action.

Possible Answers:

leader a long time activist, urged

leader, a long time activist, urged

leader, the long time activist urged

leader, a long time activist urges

leader a long time activist urged

Correct answer:

leader, a long time activist, urged

Explanation:

The words "a long time activist" are an interrupting phrase, that is a phrase which interrupts the sentence and is not necessary for proper sentence construction, but does provide information. Such phrases must be set off by commas on either end, so "leader, a long time activist, urged" is the best choice among the answers.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Punctuation Errors: Commas For Introductory Or Interrupting Phrases

The teacher annoyed with her class got emotional when she was asked about her day.

Possible Answers:

The teacher annoying with her class got emotional

The teacher annoyed with her class gets emotional

The teacher, annoyed with her class, got emotional

The teacher annoys her class got emotional

The teacher annoyed with her class got emotional

Correct answer:

The teacher, annoyed with her class, got emotional

Explanation:

The phrase "annoyed with her class" is what is known as an interrupting phrase. An interrupting phrase provides information, but is not necessary to the construction of the sentence. All interrupting phrases need to be set apart by commas, making "The teacher, annoyed with her class, got emotional" is the correct answer.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Punctuation Errors: Commas For Introductory Or Interrupting Phrases

The conclusion, reached through faulty logic proved unsatisfactory to a majority of the report's readers.

Possible Answers:

The conclusion, reached through faulty logic, proved

The conclusion reached through faulty logic proved

The conclusion reached through faulty logic, proved

The conclusion, reached through faulty logic proved

The conclusion, reached, through faulty logic proved

Correct answer:

The conclusion, reached through faulty logic, proved

Explanation:

The phrase "reached through faulty logic" is an interrupting phrase, or one that gives crucial information to the meaning of the sentence, but is not necessary to the sentence's construction. All interrupting phrases must be set apart from the rest of the sentence by commas, making "The conclusion, reached through faulty logic, proved" the correct answer choice.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Punctuation Errors: Commas For Introductory Or Interrupting Phrases

The new manager a former player for the team commented that he was excited to be back in a familiar space.

Possible Answers:

The new manager, a former player for the team commented

The new manager, a former player for the team, commented

The new manager a former player for the team, commented

The new manager the former player for the team commented

The new manager a former player for the team commented

Correct answer:

The new manager, a former player for the team, commented

Explanation:

The phrase "a former player for the team" is an interrupting phrase, a phrase that provides extra information, but is apart from the structure of the sentence. All interrupting phrases must be separated from the rest of the sentence by commas, making "The new manager, a former player for the team, commented" the correct answer choice.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Punctuation Errors: Commas For Introductory Or Interrupting Phrases

The executive worn out from his travels, barely made it through his speech at the conference before falling asleep.

Possible Answers:

The executive worn out from his travels, bare

The executive worn out from his travels, barely

The executive worn out from his travels barely

The executive being worn out from his travels, barely

The executive, worn out from his travels, barely

Correct answer:

The executive, worn out from his travels, barely

Explanation:

The phrase "worn out from his travels" is an interrupting phrase, or a phrase that provides additional meaning to the sentence, but stands apart from its essential structure. To show this, all interrupting phrases must be set off by commas on each end. This makes "The executive, worn out from his travels, barely" the correct answer choice.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Punctuation Errors: Commas For Introductory Or Interrupting Phrases

The advisor, a close confidante for years gave strict warnings about what the minister could and could not do.

Possible Answers:

The advisor, a close confidante for years gave

The advisor a close confidante for years gave

The advisor as a close confidante for years gave

The advisor a close confidante for years, gave

The advisor, a close confidante for years, gave

Correct answer:

The advisor, a close confidante for years, gave

Explanation:

The phrase "a close confidante for years" is an interrupting phrase, or a phrase that gives additional information without being crucial to the structure of the sentence. All such phrases need to be separated by commas, making "The advisor, a close confidante for years, gave" the correct answer choice.

Example Question #2 : Correcting Punctuation Errors: Commas For Introductory Or Interrupting Phrases

The debaters all still in high school showed a maturity beyond their years.

Possible Answers:

The debaters all still in high school showed a maturity beyond their years. 

The debaters, all still in high school, showed a maturity beyond their years.

The debaters all still in high school showed a maturity beyond there years.

The debaters all still in high school, showed a maturity beyond their years.

The debaters, all still in high school showed a maturity beyond their years.

Correct answer:

The debaters, all still in high school, showed a maturity beyond their years.

Explanation:

The phrase "all still in high school" is an interrupting phrase, one that provides extra information to the sentence but is not a part of the sentence's main structure. Because of this separation, all interrupting phrase should be surrounded by commas; therefore, the correct answer choice is "The debaters, all still in high school, showed a maturity beyond their years."

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