ACT English : Period, Exclamation Point, and Question Mark Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Period, Exclamation Point, And Question Mark Errors

"Did you do all of the housework," she asked?

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

Possible Answers:

The sentence contains no errors.

None of the corrections listed here are correct.

"Did you do all of the housework," she asked.

"Did you do all of the housework?" she asked.

"Did you do all of the housework?," she asked.

Correct answer:

"Did you do all of the housework?" she asked.

Explanation:

If a question is being quoted, the question mark goes inside the quotation marks at the end of the quoted sentence, replacing any other punctuation and rendering a comma unnecessary.  The person quoting this woman, however, is not asking a question, so the question mark does not belong at the end of the signal phrase "she asked."

Example Question #2 : Period, Exclamation Point, And Question Mark 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:

"But why," John asked Alpha

"But why" John asked Alpha

"But why?" John asked Alpha

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

"But why?" John asked Alpha

Explanation:

Since John is asking a question, the question mark is necessary, and it replaces the comma which would normally signal the end of a quotation before the attribution phrase John asked Alpha.

Example Question #3 : Period, Exclamation Point, And Question Mark Errors

"Whomever (1) wins the game will play in the Megabowl," (2) Paul shouted, and Derek wasnt (3) sure how to respond.  He dint (4) particularly care for football generally, (5) or for the Megabowl specifically but (6) he did not want to upset his best friend, whom (7) was obviously excessively (8) excited about the news.  He took a deep breath then (9) he said  "That's wonderful news (10) Paul.  Where is the game be (11) held?"  Paul grinned and replied, "In Antarctica!"  Derek blinked.  "Since when are they having football games in Antarctica" he (12) asked.  Paul simply smiled and said, "There had to be some good to come out of global warming, right?"

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:

Antarctica"? he

NO CHANGE

Antarctica," he

Antarctica?" he

Correct answer:

Antarctica?" he

Explanation:

The question mark is required by the fact that attribution phrase is "he asked," and such punctuation always is placed inside the quotation mark.

Example Question #4 : Period, Exclamation Point, And Question Mark Errors

Which of these sentences uses correct punctuation? 

Possible Answers:

When the clock strikes twelve they will be here?

How they got here was a question no one could answer?

When is the game? 

She wondered how he had gotten here?

What a catch that was?

Correct answer:

When is the game? 

Explanation:

Question marks should only be used at the end of complete thoughts that ask questions. "Question words" such as "how," "what," "which," "when," "where," and "why" do not necessarily mean that the sentence will require a question mark, because the complete thought may not be a question. Similarly, if a sentence declares someone "wondered," "asked," etc., the complete thought is a statement of what the person did, rather than the question the person considered. Therefore "When is the game?" is the only correctly punctuated sentence, because it is the only answer choice that asks a question. 

Example Question #5 : Period, Exclamation Point, And Question Mark Errors

Did someone in here shout "Fire"?

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

Possible Answers:

Did someone in here shout "Fire"?!

Did someone in here shout fire?

Did someone in here shout "Fire"!

NO CHANGE

Did someone in here shout "Fire!"?

Correct answer:

Did someone in here shout "Fire!"?

Explanation:

Because the word "Fire" was shouted by someone, it requires an exclamation mark, and that exclamation mark should go inside the quotation marks, but since someone is asking if the word was shouted, the entire sentence is a question and should be marked with a question mark at the end.  The entire sentence itself is not an exclamation, though, so ending the main sentence with an exclamation mark or the combination of a question mark and an exclamation mark would not be appropriate.

Example Question #6 : Period, Exclamation Point, And Question Mark Errors

Adapted from “The Fisherman and His Wife" in German Fairy Tales and Popular Stories by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm (trans. Taylor, ed. 1864)

The next morning, when Dame Ilsabill had awoke, it was broad daylight, and she jogged her husband, the fisherman, with her elbow, and said, "Get up husband and bestir yourself, for we must be king of all the land."

"Wife, wife," said the man, “why should we wish to be king? I will not be king."

"Then I will," said she.

"But, wife," said the fisherman, "how can you be king? The fish cannot make you a king."

“Husband," said she, "say no more about it; instead, go and try! I will be king." So the man went away quite sorrowful to think that his wife should want to be king. This time, the sea looked a dark gray color, and was overspread with curling waves and ridges of foam as he cried out, “O man of the sea! Hearken to me! My wife Ilsabill will have her own will, and hath sent me to beg a boon of thee!"

"Well, what would she have now," said the fish?

"Alas!" said the poor man, 'my wife wants to be king."

"Go home," said the fish, “for she is king already."

Then, the fisherman had went home. As he came close to the palace he saw a troop of soldiers, and heard the sound of drums and trumpets. When he went in, he saw his wife sitting on a high throne of gold and diamonds, with a golden crown upon her head. On each side of she stood six fair maidens, each a head taller than the other. 

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

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

"Well what would she have now," said the fish?

"Well, what would she have now?," said the fish.

"Well, what would she have now?", said the fish.

"Well, what would she have now?" said the fish.

Correct answer:

"Well, what would she have now?" said the fish.

Explanation:

As written, the sentence mistakenly places the question mark in the main clause of the sentence. It is the quotation itself that is the question. Therefore, you must place the question mark within the quotation marks and end the main clause with a period. However, note that when you cite a question in this manner, you do not use a comma to separate the question quotation from the rest of the sentence.

Example Question #7 : Period, Exclamation Point, And Question Mark 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:

of others!"

of others."

NO CHANGE

of others.

Correct answer:

of others."

Explanation:

The period should be placed inside the quotation marks at the end of a sentence.

Example Question #8 : Period, Exclamation Point, And Question Mark Errors

John was realizing (1) that if he ever wanted to get any work done (2) he needed to turn off his phone. Putting it on vibrate was not going to be enough (3). If it weren't (4) a message from a disgruntled student or an update to an app, it would be (5) a call from a relative or from a creditor. He has only recently realized (6) how ironic it is that "creditor" rhymes with "predator." (7) When the phone is on vibrate, he could feel it (8) from across the room which (9) makes it difficult for him to ignore it. Eventually he instituted a rule by which (10) he would only turn the phone on during certain hours of the day. At night he would turn it completely off, and he caught up (11) with his messages at lunchtime or dinnertime, but only if he were dining (12) alone. After that, he felt a little bit happier—but only a little bit.

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:

"creditor" rhymes with "predator".

"creditor" rhymes with predator.

NO CHANGE

creditor rhymes with predator.

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

Words used as words are always placed in quotation marks, and the period at the end of the sentence should also be inside the quotation marks.

Example Question #9 : Period, Exclamation Point, And Question Mark Errors

Adapted from The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (ed. 1896)

Look at a plant in the midst of it's range, why does it not double or quadruple its numbers? We know that it can perfectly well withstand a little more heat or cold, dampness or dryness, for elsewhere it ranges into slightly hotter or colder, damper or drier districts. In this case, we can clearly see that if we wish in imagination to give the plant the power of increasing in number, we should have to give it some advantage over its competitors, or over the animals of the wild that prey on it. On the confines of its geographical range, a change of constitution with respect to climate would clearly be an advantage to our plant; but we have reason to believe that only a few plants or animals range so far, that they are destroyed exclusively by the rigor of the climate. Not until we reach the extreme confines of life, in the Arctic regions or on the borders of an utter desert, will competition cease. The land may be extremely cold or dry, yet there will be competition between some few species, or between the individuals of the same species, for the warmest or dampest spots.

Hence we can see that when a plant or animal is placed in a new country amongst new competitors, the conditions of its life will generally be changed in an essential manner, although the climate may be exactly the same as in its former home. If its average numbers are to increase in its new home, we should have to modify it in a different way to what we should have had to do in its native country; for we should have to give it some advantage over a different set of competitors or enemies.

It is good thus to try in imagination to give to any one species an advantage over another. Probably in no single instance should we know what to do. This ought to convince us of our ignorance on the mutual relations of all organic beings; a conviction as necessary, as it is difficult to acquire. All that we can do is to keep steadily in mind that each organic being is striving to increase in a geometrical ratio; that each at some period of its life, during some season of the year, during each generation or at intervals, has to struggle for life and to suffer great destruction. When we reflect on this struggle, we may console ourselves with the full belief that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.

Which is the best form of the first sentence of the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Look at a plant in the midst of its range. Why does it not double or quadruple its numbers?

NO CHANGE

Look at a plant in the midst of its range, why does it not double or quadruple its numbers.

Look: at a plant in the midst of its range, why does it not double or quadruple its numbers?

Correct answer:

Look at a plant in the midst of its range. Why does it not double or quadruple its numbers?

Explanation:

It is necessary to notice the two independent clauses involved here. First, there is an imperative sentence: "Look at the plant..." Second, there is a question: "Why does it..." The best form separates these two independent sentences with a period, using a question mark at the end of the second sentence.

Example Question #10 : Period, Exclamation Point, And Question Mark Errors

Adapted from "The Philosophy of Composition" by Edgar Allan Poe (1846)

Charles Dickens in a note now lying before me (1) alluding to an examination I once made of the mechanism of [the novel] Barnaby Rudge (2), says (3) "By the way, are you aware that Godwin wrote his 'Caleb Williams' backwards? He first involved his hero in a web of difficulties, forming the second volume, and then, for the first, cast about him for some mode of accounting for what had been done" (4)

I cannot think this the exacting (5) mode of procedure on the part of Godwin — and indeed what he himself acknowledges, is not altogether in accordance with Mr. Dickens idea (6) — but the author of “Caleb Williams” was too good an artist not to perceive the advantage derivative (7) from at least a somewhat similar process. Nothing is more clear than that every plot, worth the name, must be elaborated to its dénouement before any thing be attempted with the pen. It is only with the dénouement constantly in view that we can give a plot its indispensable (8) air of consequence, or causation, by making the incidents (9) and especially the tone at all points, tend to the development of the intention.

There is a radical error I think (10) in the usual mode of constructing a story. Either history affords a thesis — or one is suggested by an incident of the day — or, at best, the author sets himself to work in the combination of striking events to form merely the basis of his narrative — designing, generally, to fill in with description, dialogue, or autorial (11) comment, whatever crevices of fact, or action, may from page to page (12) render themselves apparent.

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:

done."

done?"

NO CHANGE

done".

Correct answer:

done."

Explanation:

Dickens is making a statement in the second sentence, and the period that finishes that statement is part of his statement; therefore, it should be inserted within the quotation mark.

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