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Punctuation Practice: Adding Commas, Colons, Semicolons, and Dashes


This exercise will give you practice in applying the principles introduced in Basic Rules of Punctuation. To view this exercise without ads, click on the printer icon near the top of the page.

Before attempting the exercise, you may find it helpful to review these two pages:

The following paragraph has been adapted from The Body in Question, a book 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.

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. 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.)

Rites of Passage

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.
(adapted from The Body in Question by Jonathan Miller. Random House, 1978)

When you have completed the exercise, compare your work with the punctuated version of the paragraph on page two.

Additional Practice in Using Punctuation Correctly:

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  5. Punctuation Practice - Adding Commas, Colons, Semicolons, and Dashes - Rites of Passage Punctuation Exercise

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