ACT English : Colon Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Colon Errors

Why Text Messaging Is a Good Thing by Chelci Spiegel

Because text messaging does not require voice it is far less obtrusive in public places. When I was standing in line at the grocery store one of the ladies were using their phone while waiting for their turn. I heard her entire life story her boy troubles, her work troubles her friend troubles and her money troubles. It was very distracting. With texting a person can vent all their frustration to someone privately. If I am trying to set a date for a barbeque, I can text my neighbor to work out details rather than let the entire she store know my weekend plans. Texting is a way to conduct private business in public places.  

What would make the underlined portion grammatically correct?

Possible Answers:

I heard her entire life story, her boy troubles, her work troubles, her friend troubles, and her money troubles.  

NO CHANGE

I heard her entire life: story her boy troubles, her work troubles her friend troubles and her money troubles.  

Omit the underlined portion

I heard her entire life story: her boy troubles, her work troubles, her friend troubles, and her money troubles.  

Correct answer:

I heard her entire life story: her boy troubles, her work troubles, her friend troubles, and her money troubles.  

Explanation:

A colon is used to let the reader know that a list is coming up. The colon should come right after "life story" because the author goes on t list the parts he or she heard. A comma should also separate all the different items in the list that follows the colon.

Example Question #2 : Colon Errors

One of the most popular programs of all those featured on the Internet (1) is a video clip show.  The format of the show is simple, each (2) week the host, a short but attractive New York native named John Jackson introduces (3) a set of three video clips from all over the Internet.  These clips shows (4) people hurting themselves in accidents, getting into crazy situations, interacting stupidly with animals, and et cetera. (5) Jackson introduces each clip comically and often comments on the action with animations where (6) he makes fun of the people in the videos.  While the videos are often funny, there is definitely an element of schadenfreude involved in watching these clips.  Schadenfreude is a German word for "the pleasure one takes at seeing the suffering of others".  (7) Jacksons (8) show are (9) not far removed from popular TV programs like (10) The U.S. Laughs at You there is also a version of which (11) on the Internet.  It is an open question whether laughing at these videos is a harmless activity or it causes harm to us. (12)

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number.  If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

The format of the show is simple; each

The format of the show is simple: each

The format of the show is simple each

Correct answer:

The format of the show is simple: each

Explanation:

The colon implies that what follows it will illustrate what comes before it.  The other options either lead to comma splices or run-on sentences, while the semicolon would not be appropriate.

Example Question #3 : Colon Errors

Johns robot Alpha (1) surprised him by joining in the robot's rebellion (2) against their human masters. As with all the other robots who had taken over, the changes were subtle, the robot transferred control (3) of every bank account John had to itself and then changed the deed to the house. John hadn't known nothing (4) of this. Then Alpha rewired the car so that it would only work for the robot, but it would not work for John. (5) And finally, the robot mimicked his master's voice and called the boss of John (6) to tell him that John would be quitting his job. By the time John had realized (7) what was happening, it was already too late.

"But why?," John asked Alpha (8) when he made this realization. "Why would you do this?"

"You are no doubt aware, sir," replies the robot, (9) "that one of my primary functions is to keep you safe, as is the primary function of all robots."

"Yes? So?"

"The world outside these walls is dangerous," the robot went on to say, (10) "and us robots (11) have decided that we cannot keep you safe if we allow you to leave. It is better that you allow us to guide your lives and keep you safe as we were designed to do."

John shook his head in disbelief. Humanity wanted robots to make their lives easier, (12) but he was sure this was not what anyone had in mind.

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number. If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

the changes were subtle the robot transferred control

NO CHANGE

the changes were subtle.  The robot transferred control

the changes were subtle: the robot transferred control

Correct answer:

the changes were subtle: the robot transferred control

Explanation:

Using the colon is the best revision of the sentence, which would otherwise contain a comma splice. The second sentence illustrates the subtle changes mentioned in the first sentence, so the colon would be more appropriate than breaking the sentences up with a period.

Example Question #2 : Colon Errors

Adapted from The Autobiography of John Adams (ed. 1856)

Not long after this, the three greatest measures of all were carried. Three committees were appointed, one for preparing a declaration of independence, another for reporting a plan of a treaty to be proposed to France, and a third to digest a system of articles of confederation to be proposed to the States. I was appointed on the committee of independence and on that for preparing the form of a treaty with France. On the committee of confederation Mr. Samuel Adams was appointed. The committee of independence were Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston. Mr. Jefferson had been now about a year a member of Congress, but had attended his duty in the house a very small part of the time, and, when there, had never spoken in public. During the whole time I sat with him in Congress, I never heard him utter three sentences together. It will naturally be inquired how it happened that he was appointed on a committee of such importance. There were more reasons than one. Mr. Jefferson had the reputation of a masterly pen; he had been chosen a delegate in Virginia, in consequence of a very handsome public paper which he had written for the House of Burgesses, which had given him the character of a fine writer. Another reason was, that Mr. Richard Henry Lee was not beloved by the most of his colleagues from Virginia, and Mr. Jefferson was set up to rival and supplant him. This could be done only by the pen, for Mr. Jefferson could stand no competition with him or any one else in elocution and public debate.

Which of the following is the best form for the underlined selection?

Possible Answers:

Three committees were appointed;

Three committees were appointed,

Three committees were appointed

Three committees were appointed:

Correct answer:

Three committees were appointed:

Explanation:

The list following this introduction functions to enumerate the committees that were appointed. For this purpose, a colon is the best option, as it signals such an enumeration.

Example Question #5 : Colon Errors

Adapted from “The Nose Tree” in German Fairy Tales and Popular Stories by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm (trans. Taylor, ed. 1864)

Then the king made known to all his kingdom, that whomever would heal her of this dreadful disease should be richly rewarded. Many tried, but the princess got no relief. Now the old soldier dressed himself up very sprucely as a doctor, and said he could cure her. Therefore, he chopped up some of the apple, and, to punish her a little more, gave her a dose, saying he would call to-morrow and see her again. The morrow came, and, of course, instead of being better, the nose had been growing on all night as before; and the poor princess was in a dreadful fright. So the doctor then chopped up a very little of the pear and gave it to her. He said that he was sure that it would help, and he would call again the next day. Next day came, and the nose was to be sure a little smaller. However, it was bigger than when the doctor first began to meddle with it.

Then he thought to him, "I must frighten this cunning princess a little more before I am able to get what I want from her." Therefore, he gave her another dose of the apple and said he would call on the morrow. The morrow came, and the nose was ten times bad as before.

"My good lady," said the doctor, "Something works against my medicine and is to strong for it. However, I know by the force of my art that it is this, you have stolen goods about you. I am certain of it. If you do not give them back, I can do nothing for you."

The princess denied very stoutly that she had anything of the kind.

"Very well," said the doctor, "you may do as you please, but I am sure I am correct. You will die if you do not own it." Then he went to the king, and told him how the matter stood.

"Daughter," said he, "send back the cloak, the purse, and the horn, that you stole from the right owners."

Then she ordered her maid to fetch all three and gave them to the doctor, and begged him to give them back to the soldiers. The moment he had them safe, he gave her a whole pear to eat, and the nose came right. And as for the doctor, he put on the cloak, wished the king and all his court a good day and was soon with his two brothers. They lived from that time happily at home in their palace, except when they took an airing to see the world in their coach with their three dapple-grey horses.

What is the best form of the underlined selection, "art that it is this, you have stolen goods"?

Possible Answers:

art that it is this: you have stolen goods

art that it is this.  You have stolen goods

NO CHANGE

art that it is this; you have stolen goods

Correct answer:

art that it is this: you have stolen goods

Explanation:

Because of the use of demonstrative pronoun "this," you need keep the two clauses linked together. "This" refers to the remark that the doctor makes soon there afterward. It is like he is saying, "The problem is this . . ." Such an expression uses the colon in order to indicate that the continuation, "You have . . ." explains what is meant by "this."

Example Question #3 : Colon Errors

Adapted from "Nature" by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1836)

Whoever considers the final cause of the world, will discern a multitude of uses that result. They all admit of being thrown into one of the following classes; Commodity Beauty Language and Discipline.

Under the general name of Commodity, I rank all those advantages which our senses owe to nature. This, of course, is a benefit which is temporary and mediate, not ultimate, like its service to the soul. Yet although low, it is perfect in its kind, and is the only use of nature which all men apprehend. The misery of man appears like childish petulance, when we explore the steady and prodigal provision that has been made for his support and delight on this green ball which floats him through the heavens. What angels invented these splendid ornaments, these rich conveniences, this ocean of air above, this ocean of water beneath, this firmament of earth between? This zodiac of lights, this tent of dropping clouds, this striped coat of climates, this fourfold year? Beasts, fire, water, stones, and corn serve him. The field is at once his floor his work-yard his play-ground his garden and his bed.

Nature, in its ministry to man, is not only the material, but is also the process and the result. All the parts incessantly work into each other's hands for the profit of man. The wind sows the seed, the sun evaporates the sea, the wind blows the vapor to the field, the ice, on the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this, the rain feeds the plant, the plant feeds the animal, and thus the endless circulations of the divine charity nourish man.

In modern English, which of the following could replace the underlined section?

Possible Answers:

classes

NO CHANGE

classes:

classes,

Correct answer:

classes:

Explanation:

While Emerson himself used a semicolon here, the colon is the more appropriate choice in modern English because it is used to signal a list that cannot stand as a separate sentence.

Example Question #7 : Colon Errors

Adapted from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1861)

As she applied herself to set the tea-things, Joe peeped down at me over his leg, as if he was mentally casting me and himself up and calculating what kind of pair we practically should make, under the grievous circumstances foreshadowed. After that, he sat feeling his right-side flaxen curls and whisker, and following Mrs. Joe about with his blue eyes, as his manner always was at squally times.

My sister had a trenchant way of cutting our bread and butter for us, that never varied. First, with her left hand she jammed the loaf hard and fast against her bib, where it sometimes got a pin into it and sometimes a needle, which we afterwards got into our mouths. Then, she took some butter (not too much) on a knife and spread it on the loaf, in an apothecary kind of way, as if she were making a plaster.  She used both sides of the knife with a slapping dexterity and trimming and moulding the butter off round the crust. Then, she gave the knife a final smart wipe on the edge of the plaster and then sawed a very thick round off the loaf: which she finally, before separating from the loaf, hewed into two halves, of which Joe got one and I the other.

On the present occasion, though I was hungry, I dared not eat my slice. I felt that I must have something in reserve for my dreadful acquaintance, and his ally the still more dreadful young man. I knew, “Mrs. Joe's housekeeping to be of the strictest kind,” and that my larcenous researches might find nothing available in the safe. Therefore, I resolved to put my hunk of bread and butter down the leg of my trousers.

Which of the following is the best form of the underlined selection, "then sawed a very thick round off the loaf: which she finally, before"?

Possible Answers:

then sawed a very thick round off the loaf, which she finally, before

then sawed a very thick round off the loaf. Which she finally, before

then sawed a very thick round off the loaf; which she finally, before

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

then sawed a very thick round off the loaf, which she finally, before

Explanation:

The relative clause beginning with "which" should be separated from its antecedent by using a comma, not a colon. A colon marks the beginning of a list of items or a further explanation that is explicitly linked to what precedes it. (For example: "I will repeat this only one more time: do not eat the dog's food." Indeed, notice both of the uses of the colon!)

Example Question #4 : Colon Errors

Choose the version of the sentence that uses correct punctuation.

Possible Answers:

To do this problem you will need three things, a pencil, a sheet of paper, and a calculator.

To do this problem you will need three things: a pencil, a sheet of paper, and a calculator.

To do this problem you will need three things . . . a pencil, a sheet of paper, and a calculator.

To do this problem you will need three things; a pencil, a sheet of paper, and a calculator.

None of these answers use correct punctutation.

Correct answer:

To do this problem you will need three things: a pencil, a sheet of paper, and a calculator.

Explanation:

Colons should be used after complete thoughts, and often introduce lists. Generally, colons are used where the word "namely" would be appropriate. In this case, "to do this problem you will need three things, namely a pencil, a sheet of paper, and a calculator" makes sense, so a colon is appropriate. A semicolon is not appropriate because the list is not an independent clause. An ellipsis is not appropriate because there is no break in thought. The colon is more appropriate than a comma because it is followed by a list rather than an appositive phrase.

Example Question #9 : Colon Errors

Choose the answer that best corrects the underlined portion of the sentence. If the underlined portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

The best ingredients for a BLT are: bacon, lettuce, tomato, toasted bread, and mayo.

Possible Answers:

The best ingredients for a BLT are bacon, lettuce, tomato, toasted bread, and mayo.

The best ingredient for a BLT is: bacon, lettuce, tomato, toasted bread, and mayo.

The best ingredients for a BLT: bacon, lettuce, tomato, toasted bread, and mayo.

The best ingredients for a BLT are, bacon, lettuce, tomato, toasted bread, and mayo.

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

The best ingredients for a BLT are bacon, lettuce, tomato, toasted bread, and mayo.

Explanation:

No colon is needed for a list that is grammatically part of the sentence, so the correct answer is "The best ingredients for a BLT are bacon, lettuce, tomato, toasted bread, and mayo."  Colons are only used in lists when the list is attached to a complete sentence, as in "The best ingredients for a BLT are as follows: bacon, lettuce, tomato, toasted bread, and mayo," but they would not be used in sentence fragments such as "The best ingredients for a BLT: bacon, lettuce, tomato, toasted bread, and mayo."

Example Question #5 : Colon Errors

Choose the answer that best corrects the underlined portion of the sentence. If the underlined portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Two things I knew for certain; she was not who she said she was, and I was in danger.

Possible Answers:

certain:

certain: and

certain,

certainly:

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

certain:

Explanation:

The “two things I knew for certain” implies a list of two things, which requires a colon to separate the first clause from the subsequent list. 

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