Win the Punctuation Games!

Test your punctuation prowess in these four punctuation challenges.

First Game: 100-Word Hyphens
In this 100-word passage, insert hyphens wherever they belong:

The new four story condominium development on Bank Street features homes with state of the art appliances and the latest in furnishings. Buyers looking for beautifully appointed two and three bedroom contemporary homes with open floor plans will want to visit this high end development. With only two models finished, the development has already attracted interest downtown. First quarter sales have been brisk, attesting to the property’s solid investment potential.

Buyers and their agents should stop by the sales office on Bank Street or request a copy of the four color brochure to learn more about this very special property.

Did you add nine hyphens? If not, review the passage again.

Second Game: Apostrophe Toss
In each of the 10 sentences below, note the word in bold type. Decide whether the word should be rendered apostrophe s (like girl’s), s apostrophe (like girls’), or with no apostrophe (like girls). Then “toss” each sentence into the correct group: apostrophe s, s apostrophe, or no apostrophe. Each group has at least two sentences.

  1. The question before the Supreme Court involves states rights, and governors around the country will be watching.
  2. The properties strength is their proximity to restaurants, shopping, and transportation.
  3. The three prizewinners will split the prize in thirds.
  4. Young voters pay a lot of attention to both style and substance.
  5. Todays youth are savvier technologically than their parents.
  6. Nintendos sales managers have moved from Seattle to San Francisco and New York.
  7. The families vacationing in the cabins next to us are from France.
  8. This business card case must be Johns.
  9. The World Health Organizations executive board meets in Geneva.
  10. Since all four of them love pizza, why not serve that at the interns party?


Third Game: Error-Ringing
In the passage below, find errors in the use or absence of commas and semicolons. Correct them. Do not change capitalization.

Keep your network informed. Whether they live in New York, New York or Cairo, Egypt, people like to feel included and informed. When new things come to light in your job search or profession, share them with your network. My friend Sarah began a job search on September 1, 2007 and ended it three months later, nevertheless, she still networks. She emailed me last week and wrote, “Kate, I made some new decisions recently and want to tell you about them.” I was delighted to hear from her and your contacts are likely to feel the same about you.

Final Event: Race to the Finish
As quickly as you can, add hyphens, apostrophes, commas, and semicolons to the passage below. Then go through slowly to check your work. The passage needs at least two of each punctuation mark.

Writing that succeeds in college often fails in business. Professors and teachers admire academic writing however readers needs on the job are different. Executives supervisors and employees prefer writing that focuses on action. When professors assign a 20 page report students have to write to fill 20 pages. But those same students managers don’t ask for 20 pages they ask for writing that achieves a goal.

College professors encourage their students extensive vocabulary and 50 word compound complex sentences. But colleagues on the job look for fine ideas communicated simply and clearly.

Much college writing includes perfectly structured paragraphs with an introduction three or more supporting sentences and a conclusion. Although business writing contains elegantly structured chunks of text it also features one sentence paragraphs. Business writers will use a one sentence paragraph when they want a statement to stand out.

Did you insert two semicolons, five to seven commas (depending on whether you use the serial comma), three apostrophes, and five hyphens? If not, proofread the passage again.

Become a punctuation winner! Take my online self-study course Punctuation for Professionals. The free trial will help you know whether it’s ideal for you.


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

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