Redundancy, in which unnecessary repetition detracts from a sentence, can occur on both the English test of the ACT and the Writing & Language section of the SAT. One type of redundant phrase you may encounter happens when a word is used to modify another word that is defined by the first word. Did you spot the redundant expression in our blog title? If not, this blog's for you!
Today’s blog focuses on a great time-saving secret in the ACT English and SAT Writing section: misplaced modifiers in introductory clauses. Once you learn how to spot these frequent errors, you can quickly pinpoint the correct answer choice.Read More
Both of the following sentences are correct:
You can succeed on the SAT by reading, by studying, and by taking a prep class. [Correct]
You can succeed on the SAT by reading, studying, and taking a prep class. [Correct]
In the first sentence, the preposition by is used by all three items in the list: by reading, by studying, and by taking. In the second example, the preposition by is only used by the first item: by reading, studying, and taking.
This sentence, however, is incorrect:
You can succeed on the SAT by reading, by studying, and taking a prep class. [Incorrect]
Only two of the items in the series use the preposition by, making the sentence ungrammatical.
A series using prepositions does not have to repeat the same preposition:
We have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Just ensure that all of the objects receive a preposition. This sentence is incorrect:
You can travel to the town on a plane, in a car, or a boat. [Incorrect]
The nouns plane and car are the objects of the prepositions on and in. Because the noun boat is in the same series, it must also be the object of a preposition:
You can travel to the town on a plane, in a car, or by a boat. [Correct]
Examine a question type that might appear on the ACT or SAT using unparallel prepositions:
In the relative phrase, there are three groups of people for whom the toys are being collected: for children, parents, and for babies. Notice that the second group, parents, is missing a preposition. Either all three of the groups must use a preposition:
for children in the shelter,
for parents who are unemployed over the holidays, and
for babies in the hospital
Or just the first group:
for children in the shelter,
parents who are unemployed over the holidays, and
babies in the hospital
Choice (B) is correct, as it deletes the preposition for from the third group, babies:
The toy drive—which collects new toys for children in the shelter, parents who are unemployed over the holidays, and babies in the hospital—is slated to start the last week in November. [Correct]
Now the sentence is parallel.
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Photo: Today's repeating pattern, courtesty of Kevin Dooley
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.Read More
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.
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 as..as
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.
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.Read More