PSAT Writing : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

The eldest male dog became awfully selfish during feeding time, he would not even let his own pups get a scrap of food. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

feeding

awfully

time, he

eldest

Correct answer:

time, he

Explanation:

Two independent clauses that can each stand alone must be separated by either a period or a semicolon, or connected by a comma followed by a conjunction. Because this sentence doesn't include a conjunction like "and" after its comma, it is incorrect. (This error, where two independent clauses are incorrectly connected by a comma, is known as a "comma splice.")

Example Question #2 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Anna, questioning her decision, looked to her brother, however he wouldn't meet her eye. No error

Possible Answers:

brother, however

Anna, questioning

wouldn't meet

No error

decision, looked

Correct answer:

brother, however

Explanation:

The clause, "however, he wouldn't meet her eye," is an independent clause and must be separated by a semicolon or a coordinating conjunction.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Comma Splices

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

The city’s youth take great pride in the local music scene, there are popular concerts every weekend. No error

Possible Answers:

scene, there

No error

great pride in

city's youth

every

Correct answer:

scene, there

Explanation:

This sentence has a comma splice, which means that it has two independent clauses separated only by a comma. A semicolon is appropriate here. The corrected sentence reads, "The city’s youth take great pride in the local music scene; there are popular concerts every weekend."

Example Question #3 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

I stayed up late last night baking chocolate chip cookies, this morning when I woke up the house smelled so good that it made me hungry. No error

Possible Answers:

No error

baking

smelled so good

stayed up late

cookies,

Correct answer:

cookies,

Explanation:

This is a run-on sentence. The two independent clauses need to be split into two separate sentences, or separated by a semicolon.

Example Question #4 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Car, bicycle, and bus are the only means of transportation in this city, there is no metro system available yetNo error

Possible Answers:

city, there

bus are

No error

available yet

only

Correct answer:

city, there

Explanation:

A comma should only be used to separate an independent clause from a dependent clause: here it is separating two independent clauses, so a period or semi-colon is more appropritate.

Example Question #5 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

The kids at the pumpkin patch screeched and spun around in circles all day, they bothered their teacher tremendouslyNo error

Possible Answers:

day, they

in circles

No error

screeched

tremendously

Correct answer:

day, they

Explanation:

This is an example of a comma splice. The two independent clauses should be separated by a period, a semi-colon, or a comma and a conjunction, not by just a comma, which is used to separate independent and dependent clauses.

Example Question #8 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Thomas had always struggled with trigonometry, he thought that circles should remain circles and let triangles and squiggles be their own shapes. No error

Possible Answers:

their

had always struggled

should remain

trigonometry, he

No error

Correct answer:

trigonometry, he

Explanation:

This sentence is an example of a run-on or comma splice. It has two independent clauses separated only by a comma. One way to fix this is to change the comma to a semicolon; if this were to be done, the corrected sentence would read, "Thomas had always struggled with trigonometry; he thought that circles should remain circles and let triangles and squiggles be their own shapes."

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:

beach; instead,

sister, decided

in the dark

shared ghost stories

No error

Correct answer:

sister, decided

Explanation:

A comma should never end a list: "Carlos, Jim, and their sister decided . . ."

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.

Sarah wanted to arrive at the store in time to buy the fresh bread cereal, and chocolate sauce. No error

Possible Answers:

Sarah 

fresh bread

in time

to arrive

No error

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

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Bill, Jane and Jared went to the movies every Sunday afternoon; they liked to sit at the back of the movie theatre because it offered the best view. No error

Possible Answers:

afternoon; they

No error

Bill, Jane and Jared 

it offered 

every

Correct answer:

Bill, Jane and Jared 

Explanation:

The phrase “Bill, Jane and Jared” should be “Bill, Jane, and Jarred” because the friend’s names are presented as a list. Words, clauses, or phrases in a series should always be separated by a comma. The sentence “Bill and Jane went to the movies” does not require a comma, but adding the third name, Jared, requires a comma between the three names. Be sure to note that there is no comma after the last word or phrase in the sequence.

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