SAT Writing : Correcting Punctuation Errors: Commas for Introductory or Interrupting Phrases

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #151 : 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. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Larry, my favorite comedian is coming to town next week to perform a set!

Possible Answers:

Larry, my favorite comedian is coming to town next week to perform a set.

Larry, my favorite comedian is coming to town next week to perform a set!

Larry; my favorite comedian, is coming to town next week to perform a set!

Larry my favorite comedian is coming to town next week to perform a set!

Larry, my favorite comedian, is coming to town next week to perform a set!

Correct answer:

Larry, my favorite comedian, is coming to town next week to perform a set!

Explanation:

Interrupting phrases are so-called because they interrupt clauses in order to provide information, context (they can also rename a subject, in which case they are sometimes called appositives). In the example sentence, the subject is first named with the proper noun "Larry," then renamed with the label "my favorite comedian." Because this renaming is not essential to the fundamental grammatical structure of the clause in which it appears, it must be separated using commas at the beginning and end of the phrase.

Example Question #152 : 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. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

My mother; truly a wonderful woman; packed my lunch every day for the last several years.

Possible Answers:

My mother, truly a wonderful woman, packed my lunch every day for the last several years.

My mother truly a wonderful woman packed my lunch every day for the last several years.

My mother, truly a wonderful woman packed my lunch every day for the last several years.

My mother truly a wonderful woman, packed my lunch every day for the last several years.

My mother truly a wonderful woman packed my lunch, every day for the last several years.

Correct answer:

My mother, truly a wonderful woman, packed my lunch every day for the last several years.

Explanation:

Interrupting or appositive phrases are used to rename a noun, or to provide information or context to the sentence. Because they come in the middle of a clause of which they are not a key grammatical part of the sentence or clause, such phrases must be separated with commas on either end of the phrase. Note, however, that semicolons should never be used for this purpose.

The corrected version reads, "My mother, truly a wonderful woman, packed my lunch every day for the last several years."

Example Question #867 : Act English

The athlete, a respected team leader was always the first person in the locker room before a game.

Possible Answers:

The athlete, the respected team leader was

The athlete, a respected team leader having been

The athlete, a respected team leader, was

The athlete a respected team leader was

The athlete, a respected team leader was

Correct answer:

The athlete, a respected team leader, was

Explanation:

The phrase "a respected team leader" is what is known as an interrupting phrase, or a phrase that provides information but is unnecessary for the structure of the sentence. All interrupting phrases must be set apart from the rest of the sentence by commas; therefore, the correct answer is "The athlete, a respected team leader, was."

Example Question #151 : Correcting Punctuation Errors: Commas For Introductory Or Interrupting Phrases

There once was a shepherd boy whom sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. He was hot and exhausted fanning himself, rapidly in a feeble attempt to cool himself down. On top of that, he had never been so bored before. To amuse himself, he decided to play a joke. He put his hands around his mouth and yelled in a loud voice, "Wolf! Wolf! A wolf is chasing the sheep!”

They came running. They asked the boy, “What’s going on? Did you yell ‘A wolf is chasing the sheep?’”

The boy laughed. “It was just a joke, everyone.”

The people fumed, but they all returned to their homes.

The next day, the boy bored again decided to amuse himself again. He bellowed, “Wolf! Wolf!” Again, the townspeople came running. Once they arrived and witnessed the laughing boy, they realized they’d been tricked a second time. Nonetheless, they returned home and irritated resolved to never fall for the trick again for third time.

The next day, the boy was watching his sheep. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a wolf appeared from behind the bushes. With its teeth bared, the boy cowered as the wolf approached the sheep. Terrified, he called, “Help! A wolf! A wolf is here!” The people ignored his cries. “That mischievous boy,” they all said to one another. “He must think he can fool us again.” But not one of them came running.

No one was there to witness as the wolf ate every last sheep on the hillside, as the boy helplessly cowered behind a bush. As the boy hid, he shook his head. “I shall never fib again,” he resolved to himself.

How should the underlined section be corrected?

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

they returned home and, irritated, resolved

they returned home and irritated resolved,

they returned home and irritated, resolved

they returned home and irritably resolving

Correct answer:

they returned home and, irritated, resolved

Explanation:

The word "irritated" is an interrupter, and should be set off by commas on either side. Adding a comma after "irritated" makes the first part of the phrase "they returned home and irritated," which is incorrect as "returned" and "irritated" are not parallel. 

Changing the phrase to "irritably resolving" ruins the parallelism of the sentence, with "resolving" not matching "returned". Adding a comma to the end of the phrase does not fix the issue of the interrupter, and it also ruins parallelism by making "returned" and "irritated" a pair. Therefore, the only correct answer is "they returned home and, irritated, resolved."

Example Question #151 : 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 musician, capable of playing a dozen instruments needed a larger than normal space for all of his gear.

Possible Answers:

The musician, capable of playing, a dozen instruments needed

The musician, capable of playing a dozen instruments, needed

The musician capable of playing a dozen instruments needed

The musician capable of playing a dozen instruments, needed

The musician, capable of playing a dozen instruments needed

Correct answer:

The musician, capable of playing a dozen instruments, needed

Explanation:

The phrase "capable of playing a dozen instruments" is an interrupting phrase, one that adds extra information to a sentence, but sits outside the main structure of the sentence. Any interrupting phrase must be set apart from the rest of the sentence by commas. "The musician, capable of playing a dozen instruments, needed" is the only answer choice that correctly sets off the interrupting phrase.

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