Unit 34: Punctuation Part 2

Passive Voice

The SAT does not like passive voice! It will always be wrong. Passive voice is when the subject and object in a sentence are flipped around, and the action is done to the subject rather than being done by them.

For instance:

Flying high in the sky, the eagle was watched by the girl.

In this case, we would want the active voice, the girl watching the eagle, not the passive of the eagle being watched by the girl. The subject (here, the girl) needs to be performing the action.

Some further examples:

A rabbit was seen racing around the garden, which amazed us.

While the experiment was being conducted by the research team, detailed notes were taken by the assistants to ensure accuracy.

After the speech was delivered by the guest speaker, a standing ovation was given by the audience in appreciation.

Punctuation and Prepositional Phrases

This rule is simple, but requires you to be able to identify prepositions in a sentence. A prepositional phrase can never be broken apart from what it describes with any punctuation.

An example:

Dr. Emily Thompson, a renowned marine biologist, published her groundbreaking research on coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean, in 2012, launched a global initiative for ocean conservation, in 2014; and was awarded the International Environmental Achievement Award, in 2016.

This is a complex sentence with multiple prepositional phrases, but “in 2012” cannot be split off from the research it is describing. The sentence should not have the comma before that phrase.


  1. For introductory dependent clauses, read only past the comma to see if the sentence is correct.
    If faced with “After barking for hours at night, the neighbors complained about the dog.”, turn it into:
    After barking for hours at night, the neighbors” to see if it is correct.
  2. No PASSIVE VOICE! The SAT doesn’t allow passive voice, so never choose an answer that has this. Examples of passive voice: The dog was walked by Susan. The dishes were washed by Tim.
  3. Prepositional phrases split by punctuation usually “sound funny” to us – if something seems off, check to see if this rule is being violated.

Let’s now try some practice problems!