ACT English and SAT Writing Tips: Ambiguous Pronouns

Posted by Vicki Wood on October 20, 2016 at 10:51 AM

I must apologize for my absence: Hurricane Matthew chased me from home for over a week and then kept me busy for another week when I came back. I am happy to settle back into a routine today, so let's get right to it: Ambiguous pronouns.

Ambiguous  means unclear  or open to more than one interpretation.  The movie Inception  has an ambiguous ending, as does the book The Giver  by Lois Lowry. Audiences and readers are left with questions about these endings because the authors have left them open to interpretation.

While book and movie endings are intentionally made ambiguous, pronouns should never be unclear. Ambiguous pronoun errors occur on the ACT and SAT when the proper antecedent has more than one possibility, leaving the reader to wonder whom or what the pronoun is referencing.

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Topics: SAT Prep, ACT Prep, SAT Writing, ACT English

ACT English and SAT Writing: Beware of THEM (and THEY)!

Posted by Vicki Wood on June 23, 2016 at 11:02 AM

Implied pronouns--those that do not have an antecedent in the sentence nor in a preceding sentence--are difficult to spot in writing because they are so prevalent in our speech. Consider that all of the following sentences have implied pronoun errors:

    They said on the news that pilot error caused the air show collision.      [Incorrect]

    I've been to the Smiths' house, so I should probably invite them to my party.      [Incorrect]

    Even though they said my grades were too low, I applied to Harvard anyway.       [Incorrect]

    We went to the hospital, but they said to just take two aspirin and call them in the morning.      [Incorrect]

Do you see the problems in these sentences? Both the subject pronoun they and the object pronoun them are alarm bells on the ACT and SAT, so any instance in which these two words are underlined should make you pause and take a closer look.

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Topics: SAT Prep, ACT Prep, SAT Writing, ACT English

ACT English and SAT Writing: Correlating Conjunctions

Posted by Vicki Wood on June 9, 2016 at 2:04 PM

Some ACT and SAT questions may test your knowledge of correlating conjunctions, which are pairs of coordinating conjunctions:

either..or          neither..nor         both..and        not only..but also       
not..but            whether..or  

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Topics: SAT Prep, ACT Prep, SAT Writing, ACT English

ACT English and SAT Writing: We're Talking Apostrophes!

Posted by Vicki Wood on April 14, 2016 at 1:21 PM

Apostrophes have two uses on the ACT and SAT:

    1.  To form possessive nouns.
    2.  To replace missing letters in contractions.

Let’s examine these two situations--as well as when to avoid apostrophes--in this week's blog.

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Topics: ACT Prep, SAT Writing, SAT, ACT English

SAT and ACT Tips and Tricks: Incomplete Comparisons

Posted by Vicki Wood on March 10, 2016 at 12:47 PM

Comparisons errors occur on both the ACT English Test and the SAT Writing and Language Test. When you find a comparison in a passage on one of these tests, ensure that the two items being compared are alike; it's acceptable to compare an apple to an orange but it's likely questionable to compare a green bean to a rocket ship. The omission of words in SAT and ACT questions can cause the comparisons to fall apart, creating Illogical or Incomplete Comparisons.

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Topics: SAT Prep, ACT Prep, SAT Writing, SAT, ACT English