ACT English 5.4 Passage Drill
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ACT English: Passage Drill 5, Problem 4. Which choice displays proper comma use in this sentence?
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One of the many talents of the comma is separating items on a list.
Whenever we have a sentence that lists three or more items, it’s necessary to use commas
to separate those items. Otherwise, we end up with a big pile of indecipherable mush.
Here’s an example:
“Jose likes bacon, barbecue sauce, sardines, and ice cream on his pizza.”
(Don’t hate; Jose is a man of refined, yet idiosyncratic tastes.)
Did you notice how we placed a comma after each item on the list?
There were three or more, so it had to be done.
If we hadn’t, Jose’s various toppings would all mush together in the sentence.
And if these toppings mushed together, this pizza might get too experimental even for Jose.
We should point out that there is some debate about the comma that comes directly before “and.”
This comma is called the Oxford or serial comma, and some say it isn’t necessary since
the list is already established by the time we get to it.
However, grammarians are still bickering about this issue.
Since there’s no consensus, whichever way we feel like doing it is fine.
All right, let’s get back to the sentence at hand, which lists four different kinds
of spiders: orb, funnel, sheet, and cob-weaving.
Options (A), (B), and (C) make no attempt to separate the items on the list with commas.
Not only is this a bad idea because it’s grammatically incorrect, it’s also gross.
Who wants to think about that many kinds of spiders crawling all over each other?
The correct answer is (D), which is the only option that correctly places a comma after
each item on the list.
Commas now safely separate these spider breeds.
This is great for our peace of mind and also great for the spiders; being crowded together
was probably no fun for them either.