This week’s tip is two for the price of one: If you learn your punctuation rules, you will increase your ACT/new SAT score as well as become a better writer!
The key to punctuation perfection is to constantly ask yourself, “Where is the sentence?” If it is not a sentence, is it a run-on, fragment, or phrase? Then, ask yourself, “HOW can I turn it into a grammatically correct sentence?” First step: check out the commas.
With commas, there are five main rules to remember that can turn a grammar mishap into a real sentence. Punctuation marks are the nuts and bolts of writing because they hold sentences together, and you hold the tools for building!
1.The Comma List
• Any list requires commas between the listed items.
“Please bring your swimsuit, towel, and sunscreen.”
“Jess meticulously, carefully, and thoroughly cleaned her room.”
“We wanted to clean up, to pack, and to sleep before leaving on the trip.”
• If you have a conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) separating two complete sentences, then you need a comma before the conjunction.
• If you don’t have a complete sentence on both sides of the conjunction, NO comma is required.
“The movie was hilarious, and the tickets were on sale.”
“She can ride a bike to work, or she can take the bus.”
• Some sentences just want to stick together. The friendly semicolon is better in that case than the strict period.
• Semicolons act like a period by separating two (complete!) sentences, but they indicate a close relationship between the two sentences.
“The hour is over; it is time to put down your pencils and stop working.”
• A semicolon MUST have a complete sentence on both sides!
• Two commas are used to surround, or “blanket,” clauses, phrases, or words that are not essential to the sentence’s meaning.
• You can remove everything in between the “blanketing” commas.
“Jack, who likes to read, won the essay contest.” “Jack won the essay contest.” still makes sense.
5.Modification: Front and Back
• One comma indicates a modification to the sentence. This modifier is a phrase attached to the beginning or end of the sentence.
“She went to see her grandma, a nice lady.” A nice lady (one comma) modifies her grandma.
“A clumsy girl, Sarah didn’t like wearing heels.” A clumsy girl (one comma) modifies Sarah.
Punctuation counts for at least a third of all grammar questions on the tests. Learn the rules and you can ace these questions. Also practice spotting patterns; both exams tend to use the same questions over and over again. Remember that punctuation counts and increase your grammar score!