PSAT Writing : Identifying Punctuation Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Identifying Quotation Mark Errors

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

Liam told his study group that "he needed to take a break from studying," so the group's members all decided to get sandwiches before beginning to take notes on the textbook's next chapter. No error

Possible Answers:

before beginning to take notes on

No error

the textbook's

the group's members

"he needed to take a break from studying,"

Correct answer:

"he needed to take a break from studying,"

Explanation:

This sentence incorrectly uses quotation marks to set off an indirect quotation from the sentence when no quotation marks are needed. If the sentence said "Liam told his study group, 'I need to take a break from studying,'" then quotation marks would be necessary. However, because the sentence is indirectly telling us what Liam said, and not giving us his exact words, no quotation marks are needed.  Removing the quotation marks around "he needed to take a break from studying" would correct the sentence's error.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Quotation Mark Errors

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

"Help me lift this", she whispered, knowing the request would be her last if she were overheard. No error

Possible Answers:

me

would be

this", she

No error

were

Correct answer:

this", she

Explanation:

Punctuation always goes inside the quotation marks in American English.

Example Question #201 : Identifying Sentence Errors

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

Is vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry your favorite flavor of ice cream, or do you prefer another flavor. No error

Possible Answers:

another flavor.

your favorite flavor of ice cream

vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry

do you prefer

No error

Correct answer:

another flavor.

Explanation:

The issue here has to do with punctuation. This sentence needs to end with a question mark because it is a question. The corrected sentence reads, "Is vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry your favorite flavor of ice cream, or do you prefer another flavor?"

Example Question #1 : Identifying Sentence Errors

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

How did Bosco the chihuahua get her name. The story begins with an act of heroism, a great surprise, and a feast of tamales. No error

Possible Answers:

The

tamales.

name. 

, and

No error

Correct answer:

name. 

Explanation:

"How did Bosco the chihuahua get her name?" is a rhetorical question and must be punctuated with a question mark. The rest of the sentence is correct as written.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Apostrophe Errors

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

There was outrage in the elementary school; the childrens’ recess was shortened by a full ten minutesNo error.

Possible Answers:

shortened by a full ten minutes.

school; the

There was

childrens' recess

No error.

Correct answer:

childrens' recess

Explanation:

Because “children” is an irregularly formed plural, the normal apostrophe rules do not apply. The apostrophe goes before the "s": "There was outrage in the elementary school; the children’s recess was shortened by a full ten minutes."

Example Question #1 : Identifying Apostrophe Errors

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

The football teams near defeat instigated riots through the streets of the city. No error

Possible Answers:

football teams

No error

near defeat

through the streets

instigated

Correct answer:

football teams

Explanation:

This sentence has an apostrophe mistake. Since "football teams defeat" has a possesive in it, it needs an "'s" ending. The corrected sentence reads, "The football team's near defeat instigated riots through the streets of the city."

Example Question #1 : Identifying Punctuation Errors

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

The boy's teacher had forgotten to correct their homework; she had spent the entire night planning the new geography lesson. No error

Possible Answers:

The boy's

planning

No error

homework; she

had forgotten

Correct answer:

The boy's

Explanation:

Be watchful of possessive plural nouns: here, the correct apostrophe will be at the end of the word: "boys'" is correct because the subject is plural.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Punctuation Errors

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

The Scottish highland cow is infamous for it’s prodigious methane production. No error

Possible Answers:

Scottish

No error

is

it's prodigious

infamous for

Correct answer:

it's prodigious

Explanation:

Here, the wrong form of “its/it’s” is used. With the apostrophe, "it's" means “it is.” The possessive form of "it" is "its." The corrected sentence reads: "The Scottish highland cow is infamous for its prodigious methane production."

Example Question #1 : Identifying Apostrophe Errors

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

Magazine advertisement’s from the 1950s frequently portrayed women cooking, cleaning, and playing with children. No error

Possible Answers:

advertisement's

women

1950s

cleaning, and 

No error

Correct answer:

advertisement's

Explanation:

The error in the sentence is “advertisement’s,” which should be written as “advertisements.” An apostrophe should be used to show possession (e.g. "Bob’s cat") or when combining two words in a contraction (ex. "it is" can be written as "it’s"). This sentence is referring to magazine advertisements from the 1950s, but the “women cooking, cleaning, and playing” in the magazine advertisements do not belong to the magazine advertisements.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Other Punctuation

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

Distance was never an obstacle to the Gambardella's; no matter where they were, they made sure to stay in touch with each otherNo error

Possible Answers:

made sure to

each other

No error

they were

Gambardella's

Correct answer:

Gambardella's

Explanation:

It is clear from the excerpt that "Gambardella's" is a plural surname. It is not possessive and should not contain an apostrophe. The rest of the sentence is correct as written. 

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