Tips for Fine-Tuning Your Punctuation Skills for the GED RLA

By Achim K. Krull, Murray Shukyn

Of course, you should expect the GED Reasoning Through Language Arts to test your understanding of punctuation. Punctuation includes periods, commas, semicolons, colons. Follow these punctuation do’s and don’ts to help improve your test score.

Do

  • Use a period to end a complete sentence.

  • Use a comma to

    • Separate items in a series, such as apples, bananas, and oranges.

    • Separate two complete sentences that are joined by a coordinating conjunction, such as and, but, or, for, nor, so, or yet: “Patty enjoyed going to the movies, but she hated having to spend so much on concessions.”

    • Separate an introductory clause or phrase from the main clause: “Whenever I go to the store, I buy fresh bananas.” Introductory clauses typically begin with adverbs or subordinating conjunctions, such as after, although, because, even though, if, since, than, though, unless, when, where, whether, and while.

    • Set off a clause, phrase, or word that’s not essential to the meaning of the sentence: “My dog, sensing danger, ran to the front door and snarled.”

  • Use a semicolon to

    • Separate two complete sentences that are related: “Sometimes, you separate two sentences with a period; other times, you use a semicolon.”

    • Separate two complete sentences connected with however, therefore, or some other transition word or phrase: “I usually have eggs for breakfast; however, I often order a BLT for breakfast when eating out.”

    • Separate items in a series when one or more of the items contains a comma: “We visited several cities along the way, including Paris, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Biloxi, Mississippi.”

  • Use a colon after an independent introductory clause and the phrase or clause that extends, illustrates, or amplifies the introductory statement: “The workers agreed on their demands: higher pay and a four-day workweek.”

Dont

  • Use a comma without a coordinating conjunction to separate two independent clauses: “Nobody came to the game, it was too cold out.” (That’s a comma splice.)

  • Use a comma to separate two verbs or phrases that apply to the same subject: “The car packed with hooligans sped through the busy intersection, and nearly ran into a pickup truck full of watermelons.”

  • Use a comma after the main clause when a restrictive clause, usually starting with that follows it; for example, remove the comma before that in the following sentence: “The license, that I need to operate this vehicle, is nowhere to be found.” (The phrase “that I need to operate this vehicle” is essential for specifying which license the person is talking about, so it isn’t set off from the main clause by commas; in this case, you also remove the comma after vehicle.)

  • Use a semicolon to introduce a list: “I bought three things for our camping trip; insect repellant, sunscreen, and boots.” (The semicolon in this case should be a colon because it introduces words that extend the independent introductory clause.)

  • Use a semicolon before a coordinating conjunction: “I avoided getting the flu this winter; but I did have a bad case of the sniffles.” (The semicolon should be a comma.)