Have you ever reviewed one of your old tests or papers from school and realized you had since forgotten most or all of the material you had once felt you’d mastered?

Various studies indicate that we forget about 90 percent of what we learn. We may remember the gist of a lesson, but not every detail.

Therefore, Write Lady’s 10-question punctuation test for smarty-pants may cause you to pause, but don’t fret. Grades don’t matter here. This is all about refreshing your memory or picking up where you left off in English class, so each question comes with the correct answer(s) and explanation(s).

Choose the correct answer(s) for each example. Scroll slowly so you don’t sneak a premature peek!

1.  Show thinking versus talking.
 a.  John thought, “I’d rather swim in a swamp with alligators than sit in Sam’s meeting.”
 b.  John thought, I’d rather swim in a swamp with alligators than sit in Sam’s meeting.
 c.  John thought, I’d rather swim in a swamp with alligators than sit in Sam’s meeting.

Correct Answers: b and c
Explanation: The thought isn’t spoken, so omit the quotes. As a style element, italics effectively create a visual separation between the private reflection and other content.

2.  Punctuate with parentheses.
 a.  I tell true stories in my book. (My subjects will either love me or hate me!) No one will be able to put it down.
 b.  I tell true stories in my book. (My subjects will either love me or hate me)! No one will be able to put it down.
 c.  I tell true stories in my book, and (love me or hate me for what I say) no one will be able to put it down.

Correct Answers:  a and c
Explanation: The end punctuation for a complete, separate sentence enclosed in parentheses always falls within the parentheses. A parenthetical expression could be omitted without changing the meaning of the message, which is why such comments and explanations appear in parentheses. Some parenthetical content within a sentence, as in answer c, could be set off by commas.

3.  Use a specific year as a modifier.
 a.  I am wearing a 1980s dress.
 b.  I am wearing a 1980’s dress.
 c.  I am wearing a 1980s’ dress.

Correct Answer: b
Explanation: Place the apostrophe before the s to use a single year as a modifier. If referring to the decade, the apostrophe would have come after the s (answer c). Answer b, 1980s, would be correct if referring to the years as a period of time—i.e., from the 1980s.

4.  Mention both a city and state in a sentence.
 a.  I am going to Seattle Washington for the conference.
 b.  I am going to Seattle, Washington for the conference.
 c.  I am going to Seattle, Washington, for the conference.

Correct Answer: c
Explanation: A comma separates the city and state, and another one follows the state.
The same usage would apply to a state and a country—i.e., I am going to Washington, U.S.A, for the conference.

5.  Choose when to spell out an age with hyphens.
 a.  Your boss is a forty-year-old woman with a ten-year-old brain.
 b.  Your boss often acts like she’s ten-years-old.
 c.  Your boss often acts like a ten-year-old.

Correct Answers: a and c
Explanation: In the first sentence, forty-year-old and ten-year-old each function as a single adjective. In the third sentence, ten-year-old functions as a single noun. When the plural years appears, however, the three words remain independent. The simple rule is not to hyphenate years.

6.  Include nd or st in a date.
 a.  The rehearsal dinner is on August 19th, 2018.  
 b.  I think the wedding is on August 22nd.
 c.  Will you be there on the 22nd of August?
 d.  Will you be there on the 19th?

Correct Answers: c and d
Explanation: If the day appears after the month or along with the month and year, eliminate the st or nd. The nd or st may be added when writing the day before the month, as in answer c, or when referring to the day alone, as in answer d.

7.  Show the possessive of each other.
 a.  We were both tired of each others company.
 b.  We were both tired of each others’ company.
 c.  We were both tired of each other’s company.

Correct Answer: c
Explanation: Referring to each member of a group, each other serves as a singular pronoun. The apostrophe, therefore, belongs before the s.

8.  Quote a question.
 a.  “What are you thinking,” John asked?
 b.  “What are you thinking?” John asked.
 c.  John asked, “What are you thinking”?

Correct Answer: b
Explanation: The question mark belongs inside the quotation mark, and a period must follow John asked to close the sentence. To make c correct, the question mark would simply move to the inside of the quotation mark.

9.  Show a proper plural name in the possessive form.
 a.  The Smiths house always smells like fish in the fryer.
 b.  The Smiths’ house always smells like fish in the fryer.
 c.  The Smith’s house always smells like fish in the fryer.

Correct Answer: b
Explanation: To make the plural possessive, add the apostrophe after the s. The Smiths in answer a correctly uses the plural of the name but fails to show the possessive form.
Answer c would refer to an individual—i.e., John Smith. For the singular possessive, the apostrophe belongs before the s.  John Smith’s house always smells like fish in the fryer.

10.  Punctuate with an appositive.
 a.  The principal of Elm Street Elementary Mary Smith is the person to contact.
 b.  Bob Jones the guy who won the drawing is coming to the shop today to pick up the gift basket we donated.
 c.  My uncle Albert Congress couldn’t stand politics.

Correct Answer: c.
Explanation: An appositive, which is a noun or pronoun that describes another noun or pronoun, does not require a comma if it is essential to the meaning. The uncle’s last name in answer c exposes the irony of the statement, so it’s significant. In the other examples, either the proper names or the appositives could stand alone, so the commas should be added. Commas would also deliver clarity.
a.  The principal of Elm Street Elementary is the person to contact.
     Mary Smith is the person to contact.
     The principal of Elm Street Elementary, Mary Smith, is the person to contact.
b.  Bob Jones is coming to the shop today to pick up the gift basket we donated.
     The guy who won the drawing is coming to the shop today to pick up the gift basket  we donated.
     Bob Jones, the guy who won the drawing, is coming to the shop today to pick up the gift basket we donated.

If you answered all of the above correctly, then you are a punctuation smarty-pants. Congratulations!

If you had some mistakes but took notes, then your effort shows you are conscientious and wise. Good for you! It’s never too late to hone your writing skills.

My best to you,
Sallie W. Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady

Thoughts or questions? Please contact Sallie Boyles, owner of Write Lady Inc., to exchange ideas about effective communications and gain from professional writing and editing services. Receive monthly tips and insights by subscribing at www.writelady.com.