PSAT Writing : Correcting Colon Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

Example Question #86 : 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.

The plan sought improvements to the city government in three areas municipal finances, emergency services, and traffic enforcement.

Possible Answers:

in three areas, municipal finances emergency services and traffic enforcement.

in three areas: municipal finances, emergency services, and traffic enforcement.

in three areas municipal finances, emergency services, and enforcing traffic.

in three areas; municipal finances, emergency services, and traffic enforcement.

in three areas municipal finances, emergency services, and traffic enforcement.

Correct answer:

in three areas: municipal finances, emergency services, and traffic enforcement.

Explanation:

The sentence is structured so that the list is given as the examples of the "three areas" the sentence mentions. When a list follows a phrase that can be a complete sentence and adds new information to the sentence, a colon should precede the list. Therefore, the correct answer choice is "in three areas: municipal finances, emergency services, and traffic enforcement."

Example Question #87 : 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.

Upon entering the room, you will have two choices either drink from the chalice or drinking from the mug.

Possible Answers:

Either drink from the chalice or drinking from the mug, upon entering the room, you will have two choices.

Upon entering the room, you will have two choices either drink from the chalice or drinking from the mug.

Upon entering the room, you will have two choices; drinking from the chalice or drink from the mug.

Upon entering the room, you will have too choices, either drink from the chalice or drink from the mug.

Upon entering the room, you will have two choices: either drink from the chalice or drink from the mug.

Correct answer:

Upon entering the room, you will have two choices: either drink from the chalice or drink from the mug.

Explanation:

A colon can be used to separate these two clauses. A semi-colon cannot be used, because the second clause cannot stand independently as a full sentence. Both of the verbs used need to be conjugated in the same way. The only answer choice that corrects both of these issues is, "Upon entering the room, you will have two choices: either drink from the chalice or drink from the mug."

Example Question #1 : Correcting Colon 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 found I had a lot in common with my pen pal: we stayed in touch all summer.

Possible Answers:

I found I had a lot in common with my pen pal: we stayed in touch all summer.

I found I had a lot in common with my pen pal; we stayed in touch all summer.

I found I had a lot in common with my pen pal, we stayed in touch all summer.

Although I found I had a lot in common with my pen pal, we stayed in touch all summer.

All summer, I found I had a lot in common with my pen pal: we stayed in touch.

Correct answer:

I found I had a lot in common with my pen pal; we stayed in touch all summer.

Explanation:

In this sentence, two independent clauses were joined with a colon. Although this can sometimes be appropriate, in this case the clause following the colon did not further explain what came before it, so it makes more sense to use other punctuation. The correct answer choice replaces the colon with a semicolon.

"Although I found I had a lot in common with my pen pal, we stayed in touch all summer," is an option that may be tempting, as it grammatically correctly links a subordinate clause; however, the sentence does not make logical sense, as "although" would imply that the contact with the pen pal would be in opposition to the feeling of having a lot in common.

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