2008-01-26 (Editing a paper) - 29

All the rules from Error ID still apply, but when you’re doing a Sentence Improvement question, you have to think about the following as well.

Run-On Sentences.

Since the only thing you need to know about Run-On Sentences on the SAT is that you can’t tie two independent clauses (translation: an independent clause could stand alone as a sentence) together with only a comma, you might sometimes see these called “comma splices.” There are basically 3 ways to fix them:

  • Conjunctions. And, but, or, nor, yet, so, for. NOT therefore, however, or because.
    • Bad: I went to the beach yesterday, Peter came with me.
    • Fixed: I went to the beach yesterday, and Peter came with me.
  • Semicolon. Unlike a comma, a semicolon requires an independent clause on both sides to be grammatically correct.
    • Bad: I went to the beach yesterday, the water was freezing.
    • Fixed: I went to the beach yesterday; the water was freezing.
  • Make a clause dependent. If neither of these are an option, you might just have to change the wording of whatever part of the sentence is underlined in order to fix a run-on.
    • Bad: I went to the beach yesterday, a lifeguard punched a shark in the nose!
    • Fixed: At the beach yesterday, a lifeguard punched a shark in the nose!

Dangling Modifiers.

A modifier begins a sentence by describing the subject without naming it, and ends with a comma. It will often (but not always) contain an “-ed” or “-ing” word. Basically, if the thing being described in the modifier doesn’t follow directly after the comma, the modifier is left “dangling,” and that’s grammatically unsound. You have to fix it. Some examples:

  • Bad: Because he had bet on the race, the horse disappointed Mr. Johnson a great deal.
  • Fixed: Because he had bet on the race, Mr. Johnson was greatly disappointed in the horse’s performance.
  • Bad: Excited for the concert, the auditorium shook with the noise from the crowd.
  • Fixed: Excited for the concert, the crowd made so much noise that the auditorium shook.
  • Bad: Fleeing the zombies, a safe-looking building appeared to the survivors.
  • Fixed: Fleeing the zombies, the survivors spotted a safe-looking building in the distance.

Concise Expression.

80% of the time, the correct answer in the Sentence Improvement section is either the shortest answer, or the second shortest. Longer answers can be wrong for any number of reasons, from improper use of the passive voice to redundant word choice, but the point is that if there’s nothing grammatically wrong with the shortest answer, it’s probably the right one. If you’re really stumped, then, it’s not a bad idea to Backsolve a Sentence Improvement question: start with the shortest choice, and move to the next shortest if that one doesn’t look good.

Oh, and One More Thing…

The word “being” is wrong something like 98% of the time. Again, it’s wrong for a number of different reasons (sometimes it’s a bad conjugation, sometimes it’s creating passive voice), but for whatever reason, I’ve only ever seen it in a correct choice like…once. When you see it, it’s almost definitely wrong. If you pick it, you’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’. Don’t believe me? I’m not alone in saying so.

Think you’ve got this?

Try a full section 10 drill! Give yourself 10 minutes, and see if you can nail all 14 questions.