Back To CourseACT Prep: Practice & Study Guide
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Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.
Ready to get a bit dotty? In this lesson, you'll practice using three punctuation marks with dots: colons, semicolons and periods. They might look similar, but these three certainly aren't all the same. So, before we start the practice questions, here's a quick review of how they're all used:
All three can be used between two independent clauses. An independent clause is a complete thought, or a group of words that could stand alone as a sentence. You would use a period to separate two independent clauses that aren't very closely related. For example: Mark went to the store. Susie went to work. These are just two facts without much to connect them to each other, so a period is appropriate.
You'd use a semicolon to emphasize that the clauses are closely related to each other. For example: Mark lives in the suburbs; he has a house on Birch Street. Here, the second clause is giving you more details about the fact introduced in the first. Each clause could stand on its own as a complete sentence, but since they're so closely linked, a semicolon also works.
You'd use a colon if the second clause gives an explanation for the first. For example: Mark hates dogs: he was bitten once as a child and ended up in the hospital. Here, 'he was bitten once as a child' explains why 'Mark hates dogs.' Colons can also be used to introduce a list. For example: Mark has three cats: Peter, Susan and Lucy. In this lesson, you'll practice using all three in real live practice sentences.
Ready to get started? Let's warm up with the first question:
At the corner store, Evan bought four things. Cheese, pasta, bread and butter.
(A) (the sentence is correct as it is)
(B) four things; cheese,
(C) four things: cheese,
(D) four things, cheese,
First of all, let's decide whether there's something wrong with the original. Can you spot an error here, or is it all good to go?
There's definitely something going wrong. 'Cheese, pasta, bread and butter' is not a complete sentence; it's a fragment. It doesn't have a subject or a verb. So that period in between 'four things' and 'cheese' is going to have to go, since periods separate complete sentences. So do semicolons, so we can also cross off (B).
Now we're left with (C) and (D). Which of these would you use to introduce a list: a colon or a comma? The answer's coming up, so pause the video if you need more time to think about it.
If you said (C), you were right! Remember that a colon introduces a list, so to start off the list of all the things Joe bought, we'll need to put a colon in there.
Ready for another? How about this one?
Max went shopping this weekend, he needed to buy Christmas gifts for his family.
(A) (as it is now)
(B) this weekend: he needed to buy
(C) this weekend; needing to buy
(D) this weekend he needed to buy
How about this one: is there anything wrong here? Yes! This question has an error called a comma splice. A comma splice is when the writer tries to connect two independent clauses with nothing but a comma. In this sentence, you can see that 'Max went shopping this weekend' and 'He needed to buy Christmas gifts' are both complete thoughts, so you can't just slap a comma in there and call it done. So, what kind of punctuation mark do you use for this?
You could use either a semicolon or a colon. The semicolon would just connect the two, where using a colon would imply that the second phrase somehow clarifies or explains the first. In the answer choices you can see that (B) has a colon while (C) has a semicolon. But can you spot what else is different?
That's right: needing. In choice (C), 'he needed' is changed to 'needing,' so suddenly that second clause stops being so independent after all. 'He needed to buy Christmas presents' is a complete thought, but 'needing to buy Christmas presents' certainly isn't. So answer choice (C) doesn't work after all.
That leaves us just with choice (B): Max went shopping this weekend: he needed to buy Christmas gifts for his family. This works, because the second part gives you the reason why he went shopping. So, here you used the colon to introduce an explanation.
Aaron's car was in the shop, his only option for getting home was to spend two hours on the bus.
(A) Aaron's car was in the shop; his only option
(B) With Aaron's car in the shop; his only option
(C) Aaron's car being in the shop: his only option
(D) Since Aaron's car was in the shop. His only option
First, we'll take a look at the sentence. Can you spot the error? Here's a hint: break the sentence down into:
Notice how each of these parts could stand alone as a complete sentence in its own right? These are both independent clauses, or complete thoughts, so they can't be connected just with a comma. So, we have two options. Either we can change one of these parts into a dependent clause and keep the comma, or we could keep them both independent and change the punctuation. Either way would work. So, can you pick the answer choice that will make the sentence correct? The answer's coming up, so pause the video if you need more time to think about it.
The correct answer is (A).
Choice (B) changes the first clause to a dependent clause, because 'With Aaron's car in the shop' is not a complete sentence all on its own. That would have been fine if the comma stayed put but instead it's been replaced by a semicolon, which doesn't work.
Choice (C) does basically the same thing: 'Aaron's car being in the shop' would have also been fine with the comma, but this answer choice swaps out that comma for a colon, which also doesn't make sense with the changed beginning.
Choice (D) splits it up into two sentences, but again, the first half is changed into a dependent clause, so now you have a sentence fragment to start with. Since all of the other three choices keep the original error or create a new one, choice (A) is the correct answer.
In this lesson, you practiced working with colons, semicolons and periods.
All three of these punctuation marks can be used to connect two independent clauses, or clauses that could stand alone as complete sentences in their own right.
Ready to start practicing on your own? Test your skills in the quiz questions!
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Back To CourseACT Prep: Practice & Study Guide
44 chapters | 354 lessons