English 101 Help > Skills Test: Sample Sentence Punctuation Exercise -- Answers


Correct punctuation marks are inserted.  Punctuation marks in brackets (like this: [,] are optional).  Any other punctuation marks that you might have inserted are incorrect and would count against you on the test.  Explanations for the inserted punctuation marks and any other options for punctuation appear under each item.

1.  Everyone experiences stressful situations[,] at least occasionally; therefore, we all develop ways to deal with stress.
> Semicolon goes at the end of the independent clause and before the transitional word therefore.  A comma follows the transitional word.  (We could instead use a period and capitalize Therefore.  A comma is still required after therefore.)  A comma before at least occasionally is not wrong if we want to emphasize that our stress may occur only occasionally, but it's not really necessary.

2.  Some of us find healthy techniques for handling these situations; others deal with them in unhealthy ways that may even make the situation worse.
> All we need is a semicolon between the two clauses (another option is to use a period and capitalize Others).  Using a comma between the two clauses is incorrect; that would create a comma splice.  Note:  We should not use a comma after ways.

3.  Among the healthy ways to cope with stress are[:] to find diversions that will distract us temporarily from the source of stress, to develop the psychological tools that enable us to prevent stress from becoming overwhelming, and to seek professional help whenever our own methods seem inadequate.
> The essential marks of punctuation are the two commas to separate the three infinitive constructions ("to find . . ., to develop . . ., and to seek").  A colon (:) could be used after are to introduce this series, but it is not mandatory.  A semicolon (;) after are would be incorrect.  No other punctuation should be used.

4.  Before we can deal successfully with any kind of stress, we must understand what is causing it.  If we do not comprehend the cause of a problem, a solution may remain beyond our reach.
> We should have a comma at the end of the first dependent clause that starts with Before and ends with stress.  Similarly, we need a comma to mark the end of the dependent clause that starts with if and ends with problem.  Thus, we have two complex sentences, each of which consists of a dependent clause followed by an independent clause.  These two sentences may be separated by a semicolon, or (as shown) we would stop with a period after what is causing it and capitalize If.

5.  Sometimes[,] the only answer is to escape from stressful situations temporarily; for example, we can engage in a hobby or some other activity that diverts our thoughts from the anxiety-producing situation.
> Place a semicolon at the end of the independent clause.  Place a comma after the transitional phrase for example (which introduces another independent clause).  Another correct option is to put a period after temporarily and to capitalize For example.  The comma after For example must remain in either case.  A comma before for example is incorrect and creates a comma splice.  A comma after Sometimes would not be wrong but is not needed unless we want to emphasize Sometimes.  Do not put a comma between activity and that because the that clause defines the type of activity we refer to.

6.  Although such activities do not solve the problem, they may at least put us in a better frame of mind; consequently, we will be better prepared to deal with it later.
> Put a comma at the end of the dependent clause.  (A comma after Although is absolutely incorrect; the comma belongs at the end of the clause.)  Use a semicolon to separate the two sentences.  (The other acceptable option is to use a period and capitalize Consequently.)  Place a comma after the transitional adverb Consequently.

7.  Indeed, since we often cause our own stress by worrying about tomorrow's anticipated problems, all we need to do sometimes is to convince ourselves that they are not today's problems and to remain in the present.  Some forms of procrastination can have positive outcomes.
> For emphasis and clarity, the introductory Indeed should be followed by a comma.  Next, we put a comma at the end of the subordinate clause that begins with since and ends with anticipated problems.  The independent clause ends with in the present (Some forms starts a new sentence).  We could put a semicolon here and lowercase some, but a more sensible approach is to make Some forms of procrastination can have positive outcomes a separate sentence.

8.  Because stress is often caused more by our own reactions to an event than by the event itself, we may reduce tension by modifying our reactions and our state of mind.  One way to do this is meditation.
> The introductory dependent clause introduced by the subordinating conjunction Because ends with the word itself.  Place a comma at the end of this clause.  The second independent clause (One way to do this is meditation) may be set apart as a separate sentence, or it could be preceded by a semicolon, with one in lowercase.  A separate sentence is better because it gives the point appropriate emphasis.

9.  When we meditate, we clear a channel for analysis, and we become more capable of viewing a stressful situation in perspective; furthermore, as the mind focuses on soothing thoughts, the body tends to become more relaxed.
> In this compound-complex sentence, we begin with a short subordinate clause (When we meditate) that ends with a comma.  Following are two independent clauses connected by a coordinating conjunction (and).  We place a comma before the coordinating conjunction.  A new thought is introduced by the word furthermore.  We may stop here with a period and capitalize Furthermore, or we may use a semicolon (as shown).  In either case, we place a comma after the transitional word furthermore.  Next, we have another subordinate clause starting with as and ending with thoughts.  A comma marks the end of this clause, and the sentence concludes with a final independent clause.

10.  Sometimes, however, we may be incapable of dealing with stress on our own resources, and we will need professional help.
> In this sentence, however is not placed between two independent clauses but is an "interrupter" within an independent clause:  Sometimes . . . we may be capable of . . . .  In such a construction, we place commas on either side of the interrupter (before and after).  This punctuation illustrates the use of commas as metaphorical switches.  The main "current" of the sentence is:  Sometimes we may be incapable . . . .  The word however interrupts that current, which is turned off and then on again to reinstate the "flow of current":  Sometimes, [switch off] however, [switch on] we may be incapable . . . .  Finally, we have a coordinating conjunction (and) and another independent clauseA comma precedes the coordinating conjunction.

11.  A counselor or even a close friend may sometimes provide the help we need; all this person may have to do is listen to us because just venting our fears or anxieties may loosen the grip that these emotions have on us.
> Although this sentence appears to need a lot of punctuation, it does not.  All we need is some kind of stop between the two main clauses – between need (end of first idea) and all (beginning of second idea).  Once more we have the option of using a period and a capital letter instead of the semicolon.  The dependent (subordinate) clause at the end of the sentence (because . . . us) does not need to be set off by a comma.

12.  Though it is impossible to avoid all stressful situations, we can lead happy and purposeful lives if we learn how to manage our reactions to the inevitable pressures of life.
> The only punctuation we need here is the comma at the end of the introductory subordinate clause.  One might argue for a comma before if, but that clause is really a continuation of the main idea.  We would use a comma before if only if we wanted to give emphasis to "if we learn . . . ."

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