Punctuation Practice with Commas, Colons, Semicolons, and Dashes

Colon and semicolon key on typewriter

Comstock Images / Getty Images

This exercise will give you practice in applying basic principled of punctuation. Before attempting the exercise, it may be helpful to review the use of commas as well as semicolons, colons, and dashes

Instructions

The following paragraph has been adapted from The Body in Question by author, physician, and television presenter Jonathan Miller. Throughout the paragraph, you'll find a number of empty paired brackets: [ ]. Replace each set of brackets with an appropriate mark of punctuation: a comma, colon, semicolon, or dash. When you're done, compare your work with the punctuated version of the paragraph on page two. Note that in some instances more than one correct answer is possible.

Hint: As you work on this exercise, try reading the paragraph aloud. Often, you may be able to hear where a mark of punctuation is needed.

Exercise

The idea of "rites of passage" was first introduced by the French anthropologist Arnold Van Gennep in 1909. Van Gennep insisted that all rituals of "passing through" occurred in three successive phases[ ] a rite of separation[ ] a rite of transition[ ] and a rite of aggregation. The person whose status is to be changed has to undergo a ritual which marks his departure from the old version of himself[ ] there has to be some act which symbolizes the fact that he has rid himself of all his previous associations. He is washed[ ] rinsed[ ] sprinkled or immersed[ ] and[ ] in this way[ ] all his previous obligations and attachments are symbolically untied and even annihilated. This stage is followed by a rite of transition[ ] when the person is neither fish nor fowl[ ] he has left his old status behind him but has not yet assumed his new one. This liminal condition is usually marked by rituals of isolation and segregation[ ]a period of vigil[ ] mockery perhaps[ ] fear and trembling. There are often elaborate rites of humiliation[ ]scourging[ ] insults[ ] and darkness. Finally[ ] in the rite of aggregation[ ] the new status is ritually conferred[ ] the person is admitted[ ] enrolled[ ] confirmed[ ] and ordained.

Answer Key

Here, with punctuation restored, is the original version of the above paragraph. Note that in some instances more than one correct answer is possible.

The idea of "rites of passage" was first introduced by the French anthropologist Arnold Van Gennep in 1909. Van Gennep insisted that all rituals of "passing through" occurred in three successive phases: a rite of separation, a rite of transition, and a rite of aggregation. The person whose status is to be changed has to undergo a ritual which marks his departure from the old version of himself: there has to be some act which symbolizes the fact that he has rid himself of all his previous associations. He is washed, rinsed, sprinkled or immersed, and, in this way, all his previous obligations and attachments are symbolically untied and even annihilated. This stage is followed by a rite of transition, when the person is neither fish nor fowl; he has left his old status behind him but has not yet assumed his new one. This liminal condition is usually marked by rituals of isolation and segregation—a period of vigil, mockery perhaps, fear and trembling. There are often elaborate rites of humiliation—scourging, insults, and darkness. Finally, in the rite of aggregation, the new status is ritually conferred: the person is admitted, enrolled, confirmed, and ordained.

Source:

  • Miller, Jonathan. The Body in Question by Jonathan Miller. Random House, 1978