ACT English : Quotation Mark Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Quotation Mark 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?

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

I knew Mrs. Joe's housekeeping to be of the strictest kind and

I knew, “Mrs. Joe's housekeeping was of the strictest kind,” and

I knew, “Mrs. Joe's housekeeping to be of the strictest kind”, and

Correct answer:

I knew Mrs. Joe's housekeeping to be of the strictest kind and

Explanation:

There is no need for the set of quotation marks in the passage. Almost always, "know" is used with indirect quotations or statments. Later in the sentence, the author introduces an indirect statement by using "that." This thought is also indirectly mentioned, though there is no "that" used. Therefore, no quotation marks are necessary.

Example Question #2 : Quotation Mark Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

“I can’t believe he ate the entire cake,” she said, “Can you?”

Possible Answers:

cake,” she said. “Can you?”

cake,” she said, “Can you?”

cake.” She said. “Can you?”

cake” she said “Can you?”

cake” she said, “Can you?”

Correct answer:

cake,” she said. “Can you?”

Explanation:

Double quotation marks are conventionally used to indicate speech, and commas are conventionally used inside the quotation marks to separate a line of speech from its subsequent dialogue tag. Because “‘Can you?’” is a separate sentence from “‘I can’t believe he ate the entire cake,’ she said,’” there must be a period after “she said” to separate the two sentences.

Example Question #3 : Quotation Mark Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

“Why does your so-called ‘fact sheet’ list obvious fallacies,” she asked?

Possible Answers:

“Why does your so-called ‘fact sheet’ list obvious fallacies?” she asked.

“Why does your so-called “fact sheet” list obvious fallacies,” she asked?

“Why does your so-called ‘fact sheet’ list obvious fallacies,” she asked?

“Why does your so-called “fact sheet” list obvious fallacies?” she asked.

“Why does your so-called ‘fact sheet’ list obvious fallacies”? she asked.

Correct answer:

“Why does your so-called ‘fact sheet’ list obvious fallacies?” she asked.

Explanation:

Double quotation marks are conventionally used to indicate speech, and question marks are conventionally used inside the quotation marks to indicate the end of an interrogative sentence. Double quotation marks (without commas) are also conventionally used to indicate skepticism about a word or term, as with “fact sheet” here. However, because “fact sheet” is already within a set of double quotation marks, single quotation marks must be used.

Example Question #226 : Correcting Punctuation Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Did she say, "I'll take the car?"

Possible Answers:

Did she say "I'll take the car"?

Did she say, "I'll take the car."

Did she say, "I'll take the car"?

Did she say, "I'll take the car."? 

Did she say, "I'll take the car?"

Correct answer:

Did she say, "I'll take the car"?

Explanation:

This question is asking whether or not a phrase was said, and that phrase itself is not a question. If a question ends with a quoted statement that is not a question, the question mark will go outside the closing quotation mark.

Example Question #227 : Correcting Punctuation Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the underlined choices repeats the answer as it is written. 

"What if the lost puppy really does belong to Jane," we thought as we drove to the veterinarian. 

Possible Answers:

"What if the lost puppy really does belong to Jane",

"What if the lost puppy really does belong to Jane,"

"What if the lost puppy really does belong to Jane"

"What if the lost puppy really does belong to Jane?"

"What if the lost puppy really does belong to Jane"?

Correct answer:

"What if the lost puppy really does belong to Jane?"

Explanation:

The error in this sentence comes from the fact that the underlined phrase is a question and therefore should end with a question mark, even when it is inside double quotation marks; therefore, the correct answer is "What if the lost puppy really does below to Jane?"

Example Question #4 : Quotation Mark Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the underlined choices repeats the answer as it is written. 

"I don't believe you really wanted to drop the cake," Elena said, "In fact, I think it was totally an accident."

Possible Answers:

said; "In fact, I think it was totally an accident." 

said. "In fact, I think it was totally an accident." 

said - "In fact, I think it was totally an accident." 

said, "In fact, I think it was totally an accident." 

said? "In fact, I think it was totally an accident." 

Correct answer:

said. "In fact, I think it was totally an accident." 

Explanation:

The error in this sentence is the incorrect punctuation used to separate Elena's first sentence from her second sentence. Since both sentences are complete thoughts, we should change the comma after "said" to a period ("said. 'In fact, I think it was totally an accident.'")

Example Question #5 : Quotation Mark Errors

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

"Don't walk there"! I shouted! "It's not safe."

Possible Answers:

"Don't walk there," I shouted! "It's not safe."

"Don't walk there!" I shouted. "It's not safe."

NO CHANGE

"Don't walk there"! I shouted, "It's not safe."

"Don't walk there" I shouted! "Its not safe."

Correct answer:

"Don't walk there!" I shouted. "It's not safe."

Explanation:

Since the author admits he was shouting, we know to keep the exclamation point in the sentence. Secondly, the quotation marks go outside the punctuation mark, not outside of it, for all quotation marks except semicolons. Finally, "it's" requires the apostrophe because it is an abbreviation that can be replaced with "it is" in the sentence.

Example Question #6 : Quotation Mark Errors

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

"I know you're in there?" I said: "I can hear your footsteps."

Possible Answers:

"I know you're in there." I said. "I can hear your footsteps."

"I know you're in there!?" I said., "I can hear your footsteps."

NO CHANGE

"I know you're in there," I said. "I can hear your footsteps."

Correct answer:

"I know you're in there," I said. "I can hear your footsteps."

Explanation:

There is no question in this statement, so there is no need for the question mark; instead, a comma can be used, and it must go inside the quotation marks. Secondly, the colon after "I said" is unnecessary because it is not relating two sentences or preceding a list, so a comma can be used instead.

Example Question #7 : Quotation Mark Errors

Adapted from The Life of Christopher Columbus by Edward Everett Hale (1891 G. L. Howe and Co. ed.)

At last all was ready.That is to say, the fleet was so far ready that Columbus was ready to start. The vessels were small, as we think of vessels, but he was not dissatisfied. He says in the beginning of his journal "I armed three vessels very fit for such an enterprise." He had left Grenada as late as the twelfth of May. He had crossed Spain to Palos, and in less than three months had fitted out the ships and was ready for sea.

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:

He says in the beginning of his journal, "I armed three vessels very fit for such an enterprise."

He says in the beginning of his journal "I armed three vessels very fit for such an enterprise".

NO CHANGE

He says in the beginning of his journal, I armed three vessels very fit for such an enterprise.

He says in the beginning of his journal, "I armed three vessels very fit for such an enterprise".

Correct answer:

He says in the beginning of his journal, "I armed three vessels very fit for such an enterprise."

Explanation:

Quotations are properly separated from the clause that identifies the speaker with a comma before the first quotation mark. When closing the quotation, the period must be placed before the second quotation mark (inside the quotation).

Example Question #7 : Quotation Mark Errors

Adapted from Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley (1855)

"There!" whispered he, trembling from head to foot. "Can you excuse me now?"

Which of the following alternatives to the sentence above would NOT be acceptable?

Possible Answers:

All of the answers are acceptable. 

"There!" he whispered, trembling from head to foot. "Can you excuse me now?"

"There!" whispered he, trembling from head to foot, "Can you excuse me now?"

"There," whispered he, trembling from head to foot. "Can you excuse me now?"

"There," he whispered, trembling from head to foot. "Now can you excuse me?"

Correct answer:

"There!" whispered he, trembling from head to foot, "Can you excuse me now?"

Explanation:

The second quoted phrase ("Can you excuse me now") is the beginning of a new sentence and requires the attributive phrase to end with a period, not a comma. Grammatically, an exclamation point or a comma is correct within the first set of quotation marks.

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