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 For Dependent Clauses

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

Although he initially refused to go to the cinema, James finally saw the movie, that his friends had recommendedNo error

Possible Answers:

refused to go to the cinema

No error

movie, that

had recommended

Although he

Correct answer:

movie, that

Explanation:

Commas, gramatically speaking, should never be used before or after the word "that." The correct sentence would have: "James finally saw the movie that his friends . . ."

"Had recommended" could be changed to "recommended", for the sake of simplicity, but the comma error is more flagrant.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Other Commas

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

In the interest of advancing her career, Ollie decided to stop going out on the weekends, and spend more time in the office. No error.

Possible Answers:

advancing her career

more time

weekends, and

decided

No error.

Correct answer:

weekends, and

Explanation:

This sentence has a comma before the last phrase, but that phrase does not have its own subject. A comma here is therefore not necessary. The corrected sentence reads, "In the interest of advancing her career, Ollie decided to stop going out on the weekends and spend more time in the office."

Example Question #1 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Other 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 trouble with taffy, is that it requires huge quantities of sugar. No error.

Possible Answers:

it

huge quantities

No error.

trouble with

taffy, is

Correct answer:

taffy, is

Explanation:

This sentence has an unnecessary comma separating the subject and predicate of the sentence. This should only happen if there is an interrupting phrase, and there isn't one in this sentence. The corrected sentence reads, "The trouble with taffy is that it requires huge quantities of sugar."

Example Question #1 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Other Commas

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

Forgetting the key part of the instructions, Charlie preheated the oven, but did not prepare the cake. No error

Possible Answers:

instructions, Charlie

did not prepare

No error

oven, but

key

Correct answer:

oven, but

Explanation:

This sentence has an unnecessary comma. Use commas to separate compound sentences, but not compound predicates like we have here. The corrected sentence reads, "Forgetting the key part of the instructions, Charlie preheated the oven but did not prepare the cake."

Example Question #2 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Other 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 man who usually sits on the park bench every afternoon, was not there last Tuesday. No error

Possible Answers:

last Tuesday

on the park bench

No error

who

afternoon, was

Correct answer:

afternoon, was

Explanation:

This sentence has a problem with commas. The comma between “afternoon” and “was” is not necessary because it is not setting off a nonrestrictive clause. It creates an awkward pause in the middle of the sentence. The corrected sentence reads, "The man who usually sits on the park bench every afternoon was not there last Tuesday."

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