ACT English : Comma Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Comma Errors

Humanities: This passage is adapted from chapter three of Sir John Lubbock’s The Pleasures of Life. The chapter is entitled “A Song of Books” and was written in 1887.

 

Of all the privileges we enjoy in this nineteenth century there is none, perhaps, for which we ought to be more thankful than for the easier access to books.

The debt we owe to books was well expressed and articulated by Richard de Bury, Bishop of Durham, author of Philobiblon, written as long ago as 1344, published in 1473, and the earliest English treatise on the delights of literature: "These,” he says, “are the masters who instruct us without rods and ferules, without hard words and anger, without clothes or money. If you approach them, they are not asleep; if you interrogate them, they conceal nothing; if you mistake them, they never grumble; if you are ignorant, they cannot laugh at you. The library, therefore, of wisdom is more precious than all riches, and nothing that can be wished for is worthy to be compared with it. Whosoever therefore acknowledges himself to be a zealous follower of truth, of happiness, of wisdom, of science, or even of the faith, must of necessity make himself a lover of books.” 

This feeling that books are real friends is constantly present to all who love reading. “I have friends,” said Petrarch, “whose society is extremely agreeable to me; they are of all ages, and of every country. They have distinguished themselves both in the cabinet and in the field, and obtained high honors for their knowledge of the sciences. It is easy to gain access to them, for they are always at my service, and I admit them to my company, and dismiss them from it, whenever I please. They are never troublesome, but immediately answer every question I ask them. Some relate to me the events of past ages, while others reveal to me the secrets of Nature. Some teach me how to live, and others how to die. Some, by their vivacity, drive away my cares and exhilarate my spirits; while others give fortitude to my mind, and teach me the important lesson how to restrain my desires, and to depend wholly on myself. They open to me, in short, the various avenues of all the arts and sciences, and upon their information I may safely rely in all emergencies. In return for all their services, they only ask me to accommodate them with a convenient chamber in some corner of my humble habitation, where they may repose in peace; for these friends are more delighted by the tranquillity of retirement than with the tumults of society.”

“He that loveth a book,” says Isaac Barrow, “will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counsellor, a cheerful companion, an effectual comforter. By study, by reading, by thinking, one may innocently divert and pleasantly entertain himself, as in all weathers, so in all fortunes.”

What is the best way to reproduce the underlined portion of the sentence below:

"They open to me, in short the various avenues of all the arts and sciences, and upon their information I may safely rely in all emergencies."

Possible Answers:

me, in short, the

me in short, the

me in short the

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

me, in short, the

Explanation:

"In short" is a dependent clause requiring commas on either end of it. 

Example Question #2 : Comma Errors

Humanities: This passage is adapted from chapter three of Sir John Lubbock’s The Pleasures of Life. The chapter is entitled “A Song of Books” and was written in 1887.

 

Of all the privileges we enjoy in this nineteenth century there is none, perhaps, for which we ought to be more thankful than for the easier access to books.

The debt we owe to books was well expressed and articulated by Richard de Bury, Bishop of Durham, author of Philobiblon, written as long ago as 1344, published in 1473, and the earliest English treatise on the delights of literature: "These,” he says, “are the masters who instruct us without rods and ferules, without hard words and anger, without clothes or money. If you approach them, they are not asleep; if you interrogate them, they conceal nothing; if you mistake them, they never grumble; if you are ignorant, they cannot laugh at you. The library, therefore, of wisdom is more precious than all riches, and nothing that can be wished for is worthy to be compared with it. Whosoever therefore acknowledges himself to be a zealous follower of truth, of happiness, of wisdom, of science, or even of the faith, must of necessity make himself a lover of books.” 

This feeling that books are real friends is constantly present to all who love reading. “I have friends,” said Petrarch, “whose society is extremely agreeable to me; they are of all ages, and of every country. They have distinguished themselves both in the cabinet and in the field, and obtained high honors for their knowledge of the sciences. It is easy to gain access to them, for they are always at my service, and I admit them to my company, and dismiss them from it, whenever I please. They are never troublesome, but immediately answer every question I ask them. Some relate to me the events of past ages, while others reveal to me the secrets of Nature. Some teach me how to live, and others how to die. Some, by their vivacity, drive away my cares and exhilarate my spirits; while others give fortitude to my mind, and teach me the important lesson how to restrain my desires, and to depend wholly on myself. They open to me, in short, the various avenues of all the arts and sciences, and upon their information I may safely rely in all emergencies. In return for all their services, they only ask me to accommodate them with a convenient chamber in some corner of my humble habitation, where they may repose in peace; for these friends are more delighted by the tranquillity of retirement than with the tumults of society.”

“He that loveth a book,” says Isaac Barrow, “will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counsellor, a cheerful companion, an effectual comforter. By study, by reading, by thinking, one may innocently divert and pleasantly entertain himself, as in all weathers, so in all fortunes.”

What is the best way to reproduce the underlined portion of the sentence below?

"This feeling, that books are real friends is constantly present to all who love reading.",

Possible Answers:

this feeling of the way that

this feeling of books

NO CHANGE

This feeling that books

Correct answer:

This feeling that books

Explanation:

If a comma is necessary after "feeling," one would also be necessary after "friends" to denote the dependent clause.

Example Question #3 : Comma Errors

The world is full of contradictions and I am full of them as well.  Every person has their quirks and I am no exception.  I love sports but I am also lazy I love animals, but I am not a vegetarian and I love teaching but I hate taking classes.  With all these contradictions how does a person like me make sense?  I would love to enlighten you!

How should the underlined portion be written to be grammatically correct?

Possible Answers:

contradictions: and I am full of them as well

contradictions; and I am full of them as well

NO CHANGE

contradictions and me too

contradictions, and I am full of them as well

Correct answer:

contradictions, and I am full of them as well

Explanation:

Commas are used WITH conjunctions to separate two simple sentences. This sentence is made of two complete sentences joined by an "and;" therefore, it needs a comma before it.  

Example Question #4 : Comma Errors

The world is full of contradictions and I am full of them as well.  Every person has their quirks and I am no exception.  I love sports but I am also lazy I love animals, but I am not a vegetarian and I love teaching but I hate taking classes.  With all these contradictions how does a person like me make sense?  I would love to enlighten you!

What would make the underlined portion grammatically correct?

Possible Answers:

quirks: and I am no

quirks, and I am no

quirks being I am no

NO CHANGE

quirks, I am no

Correct answer:

quirks, and I am no

Explanation:

When separating two complete sentences with a conjunction (and, but, or), a comma needs to come before the conjunction.

Example Question #5 : Comma Errors

To begin I should explain how it is that I am a sports-lover but lazy.  I have tried as many sports as have been possible in my life and I have enjoyed all of them.  I had competed in national gymnastics which is probably the most holistically challenging for ten years.  This sport took precedence in all of middle and high school for me.  When I retired I took up sprinting.  I ran for my university track team a D3 team don’t get too excited and performed as a top athlete in our conference.  I fell in love with running so much that I even signed up to run cross country in the fall.  Endurance is not my thing and that is part of why I am lazy.  I played soccer one season because the team needed an extra body.  I was an awful terrible soccer player but it was so much fun!  I now ride horses and run for fun.  I am lazy however because as I mentioned before I don’t have much endurance.  I’m a sprinter through and through!  I like the pain to be over in less than 60 seconds.  I’ll run longer but I’m not usually happy about it.  For as much as I love sports I also love to sit on my couch with potato chips and watch tv too!  Generally I love athletics but I am a lazy relaxer also!

What would make the underline portion grammatically correct?

Possible Answers:

To begin: I should explain 

NO CHANGE

To begin I should be happy to explain 

To begin, I should explain 

To begin—I should explain 

Correct answer:

To begin, I should explain 

Explanation:

When a sentence starts with a prepositional phrase, if that prepositional phrase is not directly related to the subject of the sentence, it must be separated from the sentence with a comma. "To begin" is a transitional idea, not something directly related to "I must explain."

Example Question #6 : Comma Errors

To begin I should explain how it is that I am a sports-lover but lazy.  I have tried as many sports as have been possible in my life and I had enjoyed all of them.  I had competed in national gymnastics which is probably the most holistically challenging for ten years.  This sport took precedence in all of middle and high school for me.  

What would make the underlined portion grammatically correct?

Possible Answers:

 my life, therefore, I 

 my life I 

 my life: and I 

NO CHANGE

 my life, and I 

Correct answer:

 my life, and I 

Explanation:

When two complete thoughts are separated by a conjunction, a comma must come before the conjunction.

Example Question #7 : Comma Errors

James, John and I should not be blamed for our errors in writing.

Which of the following is the best correction for this sentence?

Possible Answers:

James John and I should not be blamed for our errors in writing.

The sentence contains no errors.

None of the corrections listed here are correct.

James, John, and I, should not be blamed for our errors in writing.

James, John, and I should not be blamed for our errors in writing.

Correct answer:

James, John, and I should not be blamed for our errors in writing.

Explanation:

When listing two or more items in a series wherein the last item is preceded by "and," a comma should be included before the "and."  The technical name for this sort of comma is the Oxford comma.

Example Question #6 : Comma Errors

When I retired I took up sprinting.  I ran for my university track team a D3 team don’t get too excited—and performed as a top athlete in our conference.  I fell in love with running so much that I even signed up to run cross country in the fall.  Endurance is not my thing and that is part of why I am lazy.  I played soccer one season because the team needed an extra body.  I was an awful terrible soccer player but it was so much fun!  

What would make the underlined portion grammatically correct?

Possible Answers:

When I retired and I took up sprinting.

When I retired: I took up sprinting.

When I retired, I took up sprinting.

NO CHANGE

Although I retired I took up sprinting.

Correct answer:

When I retired, I took up sprinting.

Explanation:

Commas are necessary when a sentence begins with a dependent clause.  (A dependent clause is a section of a sentence that cannot stand alone with the rest of the sentence, BUT the rest of the sentence could stand alone without it.  Common words that begin dependent clauses are: because, when, although, if, etc.).

Example Question #1 : Comma Errors

When I retired I took up sprinting.  I ran for my university track team a D3 team don’t get too excited—and performed as a top athlete in our conference.  I fell in love with running so much that I even signed up to run cross country in the fall.  Endurance is not my thing and that is part of why I am lazy.  I played soccer one season because the team needed an extra body.  I was an awful terrible soccer player but it was so much fun!

What would make the underlined portion grammatically correct?

Possible Answers:

and, performed as a top athlete in our conference.

and performed, as a top athlete in our conference.

NO CHANGE

and performed as a top athlete, in our conference.

and I perform as a top athlete in our conference.

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

Commas are not necessary before an "and" if what follows the "and" is not a complete sentence.  They are also unnecessary before information at the end of a sentence that is pertinent to the sentence and not an afterthought.

Example Question #8 : Comma Errors

When I retired I took up sprinting.  I ran for my university track team a D3 team don’t get too excited and performed as a top athlete in our conference.  I fell in love with running so much that I even signed up to run cross country in the fall.  Endurance is not my thing and that is part of why I am lazy.  I played soccer one season because the team needed an extra body.  I was an awful terrible soccer player but it was so much fun!  

What would make the underlined portion of the passage correct?

Possible Answers:

I played soccer one season because the team, needed an extra body. 

I played soccer one season but the team needed an extra body. 

I played soccer one season because, the team needed an extra body. 

NO CHANGE 

I played soccer one season, because the team needed an extra body. 

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE 

Explanation:

Commas are unnecessary when there is information in a sentence relevant and necessary for understanding it.  The part of the sentence beginning with "because" is essential information for understanding the sentence.  Any extra punctuation would be confusing.

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