Complete ACT Punctuation Rules

Complete ACT Punctuation Rules 

1. Commas

2. Semicolons

3. Colons

4. Dashes

5. Apostrophes

 

I. COMMAS

Commas should be used:

1. Before a Coordinating Conjunction to join two full sentences (Independent Clauses)

Coordinating Conjunctions, aka FANBOYS:

For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So

And and But are the two most popular conjunctions on the ACT; other coordinating conjunctions appear only rarely.

Correct: London is a very old city, but some parts of it are extremely modern.

 

2. Between a dependent clause and an independent clause when the dependent clause comes first.

Dependent clauses are clauses that cannot stand on their own as full sentences. They begin with Subordinating Conjunctions such as beforeafterbecausewhen, and since.

Dependent Clauses (the underlined words make the clauses dependent -- without them, the clauses would be independent):

-Because I went home

-After we returned from the movie

-When we visited Chicago

In the following sentence, the dependent clause is in bold and the independent clause is underlined

Correct: Because London is a very old cityit has buildings from many different eras.

When “strong” subordinating conjunctions such as (Al)though and Even Though are used to start a dependent clause, a comma should be used between the dependent clause and the independent clause, regardless of which one comes first.

Correct: London is a very old city, although some parts of it are extremely modern.

Correct: Although London is a very old city, some parts of it are extremely modern.

 

3. To indicate non-essential words or phrases A non-essential clause is simply a clause that can be removed from a sentence without affecting its essential meaning. It's like a little interruption.

Non-essential clauses are always surrounded by commas.

Correct:  London, which is a very old city, has some extremely modern parts.

Incorrect:  London which is a very old city, has some extremely modern parts.

Incorrect:  London, which is a very old city has some extremely modern parts.

 

The same goes for single words:

Correct: London is a very old city. It does, however, have some very modern parts.

Incorrect: London is a very old city. It does however, have some very modern parts.

Incorrect: London is a very old city. It does however, have some very modern parts.

 

4. Around names and titles when used restrictively 

Compare:

With comma: Last night I went to see a movie with my friend, Joe.

Without comma: Last night I went to see a movie with my friend Joe. 

The first sentence means that you have one friend and that his name is Joe. The second sentence means that you have more than one friend, one of whom is named Joe. When you place a comma before a name or a title, you are indicating that there is only one of those people or books (movies, etc.); when you do not use a comma, you are indicating that the person, book, movie, etc. you are referring to is simply one among others.

 

5. After introductory words and phrases

Correct: In the beginning, there was light.

Correct: Finally, the teacher handed back the papers.

Correct: Meanwhile, Rob and I waited in the car.

 

6. To separate items in a list

Comma before and is optional

Correct: Hiking, skiing, and white-water rafting are my favorite things to do.

Correct: Hiking, skiing and white-water rafting are my favorite things to do.

 

7. To separate adjectives whose order could be reversed

Correct: The groaning, rumbling train finally pulled into the station

Correct: The rumbling, groaning train finally pulled into the station

 

Commas should NOT be used:

1. Between two full sentences (Independent Clauses)

When two stand-alone sentences are joined by a comma, the result is known as a Comma Splice, which is always incorrect.

Incorrect: London is a very old city, some parts of it are extremely modern.

 

2. Between an independent clause and a dependent clause when the independent clause comes first.

In the following sentence, the independent clause is underlined and the dependent clause is in bold.

Incorrect: London has buildings from many different eras because it is a very old city.

 

3. Between two clauses with the same subject when the subject is not repeated

Repeated Subject: London is a very old city, but it has many modern buildings.

Subject Not Repeated - Correct: London is a very old city but has many modern buildings.

Subject Not Repeated - Incorrect: London is a very old city, but has many modern buildings.

 

4. Between Subjects and Verbs

Correct: Carlos and his sister are going to a concert tonight.

Incorrect: Carlos and his sister, are going to a concert tonight.

 

5. In Compound Subjects and Compound Objects

Correct: Carlos and his sister enjoy attending movies and concerts.

Incorrect Compound Subject: Carlos, and his sister enjoy attending movies and concerts.

Incorrect Compound Object: Carlos and his sister enjoy attending movies, and concerts.

 

6. Before or after prepositions

Correct: My birthday is my favorite day of the year.

Incorrect: My birthday is my favorite day, of the year.

Incorrect: My birthday is my favorite day of, the year.

 

7. Before or after the word That

Correct: I finally saw the movie that my friends had recommended.

Incorrect: I finally saw the movie, that my friends had recommended.

Incorrect: I finally saw the movie that, my friends had recommended.

AND in clauses in which that is optional and does not appear: 

Correct: He said he would come to the movie tonight. (=He said that he would come to the movie tonight)

Incorrect: He said, he would come to the movie tonight.

 

8. Between two adjectives whose order cannot be reversed

Correct: I was somewhat taken aback by the sight of the big blue dog.

Incorrect: I was somewhat taken aback by the sight of the big, blue dog.

(You wouldn't say, "I was somewhat taken aback by the sight of the blue, big dog").

 

9. Between adjectives and nouns

Correct: The sight of the big blue dog surprised me.

Incorrect: The sight of the big blue, dog surprised me.

 

10. Before an open parenthesis

Correct: The Caribbean Sea contains some of the world's most stunning coral reefs (which are home to thousands of species of marine life), but many of them are in danger because of overfishing and pollution.

Incorrect: The Caribbean Sea contains some of the world's most stunning coral reefs, (which are home to thousands of species of marine life), but many of them are in danger because of overfishing and pollution.

 

II. SEMICOLONS

Semicolon = Period

Semicolons are used:

1. Between independent clauses without a conjunction

London is an old city; it has many new buildings.

2. Before However and Therefore when they are used to begin a clause

London is an old city; however, it has many new buildings.

London is an old city; therefore, it has buildings from many different eras.

 

III. COLONS

Colons are used:

1. Before a list

I like the following sports: hiking, swimming, and rafting.

2. Before an explanation

Ex: I talked to my teacher yesterday, and here's what she said: I should stop by tomorrow before class to discuss the test.

Colons must always follow a full sentence that can stand on its own as a
complete thought. Unlike semicolons, however, they don't have to be followed by one.

Correct: These are the kinds of fruit I like: apples, bananas and strawberries.

Incorrect: I like: apples, bananas and strawberries.

 

IV. DASHES

Dashes are used:

1.  To indicate non-essential statements within a sentence

Grammatically, they are identical to two commas when used this way.

Correct: London - which is a very  old city - has many new buildings. (= London, which is a very old city, had many new buildings)

2. Before a list, an explanation, or to create a deliberate pause in a sentence

Grammatically, they are identical to colons when used this way

Correct: I like the following kinds of fruits  - apples, bananas and strawberries. (= I like the following kinds of fruits: apples, bananas, and strawberries.)

 

V. APOSTROPHES

Apostrophes are used to make nouns possessive

For singular nouns, always add apostrophe + -s

The boy's ball = The ball belonging to the boy

The albatross's blanket = The blanket belonging to the albatross

For plural nouns, always add -s + apostrophe (or -es + apostrophe if the singular version ends in -s)

The boys' ball = The ball belonging to the boys

The albatrosses' blanket = The blanket belonging to the albatross

 

It's vs. Its

It's = It is

Its = Possessive form of it Its' = Does not exist

Correct: It's raining outside now, but it should be sunny tomorrow.

Incorrect: Its raining outside now, but it should be sunny tomorrow.

Correct: The book is missing its cover.

Incorrect: The book is missing it's (not: it is) cover.

 

You're vs. Your

You're = You are

Your = Possessive form of you

Correct: I'm sure whether you're (you are) coming with us tonight.

Incorrect: I'm sure whether your coming with us tonight.

Correct: This is your jacket, right?

Incorrect: This is you're (not: you are) jacket, right?

 

They're vs. Their vs. There

They're = They are

Their = Possessive form of they

There = A Place

They're

Correct: Bob and Alice are our friends, and they're (they are) coming to dinner tonight.

Incorrect: Bob and Alice are our friends, and their/there coming to dinner tonight.

Their

Correct: The books are missing their covers.

Incorrect: The books are missing they're/there covers.

There

Correct: We went to my favorite restaurant last night, and I think I left my jacket there.

Incorrect: We went to my favorite restaurant last night, and I think I left my jacket they're/their.

 

Who's vs. Whose

Who's = Who is

Correct: I don't know who's (who is) at the door.

Incorrect: I don't know whose at the door. 
Whose = Possessive  of who

Correct: I don't know whose jacket this is.

Incorrect: I don't know who's jacket this is.

 

That's vs. Thats

That's = That is

Thats = Does not exist

Correct: That's (That is) my jacket lying over there.

Incorrect: Thats my jacket lying over there.

 

Hers vs. Her's

Hers = Possessive form of her

Her's = Does not exist 

Correct: This jackets is hers.

Incorrect: This jacket is her's.

Last modified on 08 June 2013
25 March 2012 Published in ACT Written by  Erica Meltzer Read 24055 times
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