Review: Identifying Punctuation Errors

Indicate whether each sentence is punctuated correctly or incorrectly.

Question 1

I wrote letters to: my aunt, the cable company, and my close friend Bernice who moved to Boston four years ago.

1. Correct
X Oops!
Question:
I wrote letters to: my aunt, the cable company, and my 
close friend Bernice who moved to Boston four years ago.

Answer:

The answer Correct is not correct.
Explanation:
You should have punctuated the sentence as follows:
I wrote letters to my aunt, the cable company, and my close friend Bernice, who moved to Boston four years ago.

You should never use a colon between a preposition and its objects. The comma after "company" is optional, but you need the comma after "Bernice" because the material that follows is non-restrictive.

2. Incorrect
Good Work!
Question:
I wrote letters to: my aunt, the cable company, and my
close friend Bernice who moved to Boston four years ago.
Answer:
The answer Incorrect is correct.
Explanation:
You should have punctuated the sentence as follows:
I wrote letters to my aunt, the cable company, and
my close friend Bernice, who moved to Boston four years ago.

You should never use a colon between a preposition and its objects. The comma after "company" is optional, but you need the
comma after "Bernice" because the material that
follows is non-restrictive.

 

Question 2

"Can working with a computer really improve one's writing?" they asked.

1. Correct
Good Work!
Question:
"Can working with a computer really improve one's
writing?" they asked.
Answer:
The answer Correct is correct.
Explanation:
The material inside the quotation marks is dialogue and is a
question; therefore, the question mark must fall inside the final
quotation marks.
 
2. Incorrect
X Oops!
Question:
"Can working with a computer really improve one's
writing?" they asked.
Answer:
The answer Incorrect is not correct.
Explanation:
The material inside the quotation marks is dialogue and is a
question; therefore, the question mark must fall inside the final
quotation marks.
 

Question 3

They read they studied and they reviewed, yet they could not define the term `onomatopoeia' on the English exam.

1. Correct
X Oops!
Question:
They read they studied and they reviewed, yet they could not define the term `onomatopoeia' on the English exam.
Answer:
The answer Correct is not correct.
Explanation:
You should punctuate the sentence as follows:
They read, they studied, and they reviewed, yet they could not define the term "onomatopoeia" on the English exam.

You need the comma after "read" to separate the items in the list. The comma after "studied" is optional. In North American usage, you should use double quotation marks around "onomatopoeia", but in British usage the single quotation marks are correct.

 
2. Incorrect
Good Work!
Question:
They read they studied and they reviewed, yet they could not define the term `onomatopoeia' on the English exam.
Answer:
The answer Incorrect is correct.
Explanation:
You should punctuate the sentence as follows:
They read, they studied, and they reviewed, yet they could not define the term "onomatopoeia" on the English exam.

You need the comma after "read" to separate the items in the list. The comma after "studied" is optional. In North American usage, you should use double quotation marks around "onomatopoeia", but in British usage the single quotation marks are correct.

Question 4

Children sometimes knock at the Wilsons' door, as if taunting the couple to show themselves, but neither the old man nor his sister ever answers.

1. Correct
Good Work!
Question:
Children sometimes knock at the Wilsons' door, as if taunting the couple to show themselves, but neither the old man nor his sister ever answers.
Answer:
The answer Correct is correct.
Explanation:
"Wilsons"' is the correct possessive form of the plural noun "Wilsons." You need the first comma before the parenthetical phrase "as if taunting the couple to show themselves," and you need the second before the co-ordinating conjunction "but," which links the two independent clauses.
 
2. Incorrect
X Oops!
Question:
Children sometimes knock at the Wilsons' door, as if taunting the couple to show themselves, but neither the old man nor his sister ever answers.
Answer:
The answer Incorrect is not correct.
Explanation:
"Wilsons"' is the correct possessive form of the plural noun "Wilsons." You need the first comma before the parenthetical phrase "as if taunting the couple to show themselves," and you need the second before the co-ordinating conjunction "but," which links the two independent clauses.
 

Question 5

We cancelled our subscription to the magazine after it ran a homophobic article; likewise, a number of our friends boycotted the publication.

1. Correct
Good Work!
Question:
We cancelled our subscription to the magazine after it ran a homophobic article; likewise, a number of our friends boycotted the publication.
Answer:
The answer Correct is correct.
Explanation:
The semicolon correctly joins the two independent clauses, and the comma is necessary after the conjunctive adverb "likewise."
 
 
2. Incorrect
X Oops!
Question:
We cancelled our subscription to the magazine after it
ran a homophobic article; likewise, a number of our friends boycotted
the publication.
Answer:
The answer Incorrect is not correct.
Explanation:
The semicolon correctly joins the two independent clauses, and the comma is necessary after the conjunctive adverb "likewise."
 

Question 6

My sister's skin used to be as smooth as a childs.

1. Correct
X Oops!
Question:
My sister's skin used to be as smooth as a childs.
Answer:
The answer Correct is not correct.
Explanation:
You should punctuate the sentence as follows:
My sister's skin used to be as smooth as a child's.

You need the second apostrophe to indicate that the noun "child's" is possessive.

 
 
2. Incorrect
Good Work!
Question:
My sister's skin used to be as smooth as a childs.
Answer:
The answer Incorrect is correct.
Explanation:
You should punctuate the sentence as follows:
My sister's skin used to be as smooth as a child's.

You need the second apostrophe to indicate that the noun "child's" is possessive.

 

Question 7

Aaron asked the counsellor if there were many job opportunities for music teachers and if he would have to leave the province to get a good position?

1. Correct
X Oops!
Question:
Aaron asked the counsellor if there were many job opportunities for music teachers and if he would have to leave the province to get a good position?
Answer:
The answer Correct is not correct.
Explanation:
You should punctuate the sentence as follows:
Aaron asked the counsellor if there were many job opportunities for music teachers and if he would have to leave the province to get a good position.

The sentence is an indirect question and therefore needs a period at the end, not a question mark.

 
 
2. Incorrect
Good Work!
Question:
Aaron asked the counsellor if there were many job opportunities for music teachers and if he would have to leave the province to get a good position?
Answer:
The answer Incorrect is correct.
Explanation:
You should punctuate the sentence as follows:
Aaron asked the counsellor if there were many job opportunities for music teachers and if he would have to leave the province to get a good position.

The sentence is an indirect question and therefore needs a period at the end, not a question mark.

 

Question 8

They wanted very badly to see Peter Weirs new film, but fate in the form of the year's worst snowstorm intruded.

1. Correct
X Oops!
Question:
They wanted very badly to see Peter Weirs new film, but fate in the form of the year's worst snowstorm intruded.
Answer:
The answer Correct is not correct.
Explanation:
You should punctuate the sentence as follows:
They wanted very badly to see Peter Weir's new film, but fate, in the form of the year's worst snowstorm, intruded.

OR

They wanted very badly to see Peter Weir's new film, but fate -- in the form of the year's worst snowstorm -- intruded.

You need the apostrophe in "Weir's" to indicate the possessive (if you thought that his name was "Peter Weirs," then "Weirs"' or "Weirs's" would also be correct). The phrase "in the form of the year's worst snowstorm" is non-restrictive, or parenthetical, and you must set it off in some 
fashion. Most writers would use commas, but you could use dashes if you wished to emphasise the parenthetical information.

 
2. Incorrect
Good Work!
Question:
They wanted very badly to see Peter Weirs new film, but fate in the form of the year's worst snowstorm intruded.
Answer:
The answer Incorrect is correct.
Explanation:
You should punctuate the sentence as follows:
They wanted very badly to see Peter Weir's new film, but fate, in the form of the year's worst snowstorm, intruded.

OR

They wanted very badly to see Peter Weir's new film, but fate -- in the form of the year's worst snowstorm -- intruded.

You need the apostrophe in "Weir's" to indicate the possessive (if you thought that his name was "Peter Weirs," then "Weirs"' or "Weirs's" would also be correct). The phrase "in the form of the year's worst snowstorm" is non-restrictive, or parenthetical, and you must set it off in some fashion. Most writers would use commas, but you could use dashes if you wished to emphasize the parenthetical information.

 
 

Question 9

How could the rent review administrators have made such a decision, and how will your landlord live with himself?

1. Correct
Good Work!
Question:
How could the rent review administrators have made such a decision, and how will your landlord live with himself?
Answer:
The answer Correct is correct.
Explanation:
You need the comma before the co-ordinating conjunction "and," which joins two independent clauses, and you need the question mark because this is a direct question.
 
2. Incorrect
X Oops!
Question:
How could the rent review administrators have made such a decision, and how will your landlord live with himself?
Answer:
The answer Incorrect is not correct.
Explanation:
You need the comma before the co-ordinating conjunction "and," which joins two independent clauses, and you need the question mark because this is a direct question.
 

Question 10

"Take me with you," she said. "This little town and it's little people are more than I can bear, but I know everything will be different in New York".

1. Correct
X Oops!
Question:
"Take me with you," she said. "This little town and it's little people are more than I can bear, but I know everything will be different in New York".
Answer:
The answer Correct is not correct.
Explanation:
You should punctuate the sentence as follows:
"Take me with you," she said. "This little town and its little people are more than I can bear, but I know everything will be different in New York."

The original sentence contained only two mistakes: (1) "its" is the possessive case and therefore is spelled without the apostrophe, and (2) the period belongs inside the closing quotation marks.

2. Incorrect
Good Work!
Question:
"Take me with you," she said. "This little town and it's little people are more than I can bear, but I know everything will be different in New York".
Answer:
The answer Incorrect is correct.
Explanation:
You should punctuate the sentence as follows:
"Take me with you," she said. "This little town and its little people are more than I can bear, but I know everything will be different in New York."

The original sentence contained only two mistakes: (1) "its" is the possessive case and therefore is spelled without the apostrophe, and (2) the period belongs inside the closing quotation marks.

 

Written by Frances Peck