Punctuation for Praxis II ParaPro Test Prep Study Guide (page 3)
The practice quiz for this study guide can be found at:
Punctuation marks are standardized marks which clarify meaning for your reader, serving as traffic signs that direct the reader to pause, connect, stop, consider, and go. Although you have most likely studied and learned many of the basic rules of punctuation and capitalization, this section will cover some common problem areas that may appear on the ParaPro Assessment—including misuse of commas, semicolons, colons, and apostrophes.
A comma creates pauses, clarifies meaning, and separates different parts of a sentence. Remember the following six basic rules for using commas:
- To separate independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction, such as and, but, nor, so, for, or or. Use a comma before the conjunction.
- My instinct was to solve the problem slowly and deliberately, but we only had a week before the deadline.
- To set off nonessential clauses. A nonessential clause is one that can be removed from a sentence without changing its meaning.
- My friend Rebecca, who is active in the local labor union, is a fifth-grade teacher.
- To set off words or phrases that interrupts the flow of thought in a sentence.
- The certification program, however, works well for me.
- Elena Alvarez, my adviser and mentor, was present at the meeting.
- To set off an introductory element, such as a word or phrase that comes at the beginning of a sentence.
- Thrilled by the results, Phin presented the study to his colleagues.
- To set apart a series of words in a list. Usually, the last item in a list is preceded by a conjunction. Although a comma is not necessary before the conjunction, it is preferred that you use one.
- Micah, Jose, and Sam attended the conference.
- Micah, Jose and Sam attended the conference.
- To separate elements of dates and addresses. Commas are used to separate dates that include the day, month, and year. Dates that include just the month and year do not need commas. When the name of a city and state are included in an address, set off both with commas.
- Margaret moved to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for the job.
- Maco came to Greensboro on June 15, 2004, right after she graduated from the program.
- Maco came to Greensboro in June 2004 after she graduated from the program.
A semicolon (;) is a grammatical mark that splits two independent clauses. You may be asked to recognize errors involving the use of semicolons on the ParaPro Assessment. Review how to use this mark correctly in the following guidelines:
- Use a semicolon to separate independent clauses that are not joined by a conjunction.
- Use a semicolon to separate independent clauses that contain commas, even if the clauses are joined by a conjunction.
- Use a semicolon to separate independent clauses connected with a conjunctive adverb, such as however, therefore, then, thus, or moreover.
A colon (:) is a grammatical mark that introduces elements and shows an equivalent relationship (almost like an equals sign in math). Follow these guidelines to recognize the correct use of colons:
- Use a colon to introduce a list when the clause before the colon can stand as a complete sentence.
- These are the first-year teachers: Ellen, Ben, and Eliza.
- The first-year teachers are Ellen, Ben, and Eliza. (No colon here.)
- Use a colon to introduce a restatement or elaboration of the previous clause.
- James enjoys teaching Measure for Measure each spring: it is his favorite play.
- Use a colon to introduce a word, phrase, or clause that adds emphasis to the main body of the sentence.
- Carrie framed the check: it was the first paycheck she had ever earned.
- Use a colon to introduce a formal quotation.
- Writer Gurney Williams offered this advice to parents: "Teaching creativity to your child isn't like teaching good manners. No one can paint a masterpiece by bowing to another person's precepts about elbows on the table."
Use the punctuation guidelines you have reviewed so far to answer this practice question.
Choice c is the correct answer. The semicolon does not work because it does not separate two independent clauses. It should be replaced with a comma, setting off the nonessential clause that begins with the word which.
An apostrophe (') is a grammatical mark used to show possession and contractions. Consider these eight rules for using apostrophes:
- Add 's to form the singular possessive, even when the noun ends in s:
- Mr. Summers's essay convinced me.
- Add 's to plural words not ending in s to show possession.
- The children's ability to absorb foreign language is astounding.
- The workshops focus on working women's needs.
- Add ' to plural words ending in s to show possession.
- The students' grades improved each semester.
- Add 's to indefinite pronouns that show ownership.
- Everyone's ability level should be considered.
- Never use apostrophes with possessive pronouns.
- This experiment must be yours.
- Use 's to form the plurals of letters, figures, and numbers, as well as expressions of time or money.
- Mind your p's and q's.
- The project was the result of a year's worth of work.
- Add 's to the last word of a compound noun, compound subject, or name of a business or institution to show possession.
- The president-elect's speech riveted the audience
- Gabbie and Michael's wedding is in October.
- The National Science Teachers Association's meeting will take place next week.
- Use apostrophes to show that letters or words are omitted in contractions.
- Abby doesn't (does not) work today.
- Who's (who is) on first?
Practice answering this usage question.
The answer is choice b. As a proper noun, the Enlightenment is correctly capitalized; however, the apostrophe is misplaced. To show possession, add 's to a singular noun.
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