PSAT Writing : Correcting Misplaced or Interrupting Modifier Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #61 : Correcting Modifier Placement 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.

“If it’s all right, I’d like to quietly sharpen my pencil,” said Peter to his science teacher.

Possible Answers:

I’d like sharpening my pencil quietly

I’d like to sharpen my pencil quietly

I’d like to quietly sharpen my pencil

I’d like to quiet sharpen my pencil

I’d like to sharpen my pencil quiet

Correct answer:

I’d like to sharpen my pencil quietly

Explanation:

The infinitive verb “to sharpen” should not be split in half by the adverb “quietly,” or any other word. The adverb must be moved elsewhere so the infinitive is not split. The “-ly” ending on the adverb is necessary because without it, “quiet” remains an adjective and is grammatically incorrect.

Example Question #62 : Correcting Modifier Placement 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.

Mrs. Higgins, even though she was mortally afraid of sharks, went to the ocean beach every weekend.

Possible Answers:

Mrs. Higgins was mortally afraid of sharks and 

Mrs. Higgins, even though she was mortally afraid of sharks,

Even though she was mortally afraid of sharks, Mrs. Higgins

Even being mortally afraid of sharks, Mrs. Higgins

Mrs. Higgins, who was mortally afraid of sharks, 

Correct answer:

Even though she was mortally afraid of sharks, Mrs. Higgins

Explanation:

The problem with the original sentence is that the phrase “even though she was mortally afraid of sharks” interrupts the flow of the main clause. The sentence runs more smoothly when it is placed at the beginning. It is important to preserve the coordinator “even though” in this sentence, because it is key to the logic of the statement. This answer choices that change this are incorrect.

Example Question #272 : Correcting Phrase, Clause, And Sentence Errors

Ascertaining the meaning of ancient writing is often beyond the reach of even the most learning scholars.

Possible Answers:

even the most learning scholars.

even scholars most learning.

the most learning scholars.

even the most learning of scholars.

even the most learned scholars.

Correct answer:

even the most learned scholars.

Explanation:

The underlined phrase has a problem with the phrase "most learning." The phrase is describing the word "scholars." While the scholars might have "the most learning," this would make them "the most learned." The correct answer is "even the most learned of scholars."

Example Question #9 : Correcting Misplaced Or Interrupting Modifier Errors

Studies that have shown pets can help people with problems such as depression and anxiety.

Possible Answers:

Studies that have shown pets can help people with problems as such as depression and anxiety.

Studies that have shown pets can help people with problems such as depression or anxiety.

Studies have shown pets that can help people with problems such as depression and anxiety.

Studies that have shown pets can help people with problems such as depression and anxiety.

Studies have shown that pets can help people with problems such as depression and anxiety.

Correct answer:

Studies have shown that pets can help people with problems such as depression and anxiety.

Explanation:

The insertion of "that" between "studies" and "have" makes the sentence unclear and strangely incomplete, as the sentence essentially becomes a dependent clause. By placing "that" after "shown," the sentence becomes much more clear and appropriately makes the dependent clause after the main body of the sentence. The correct answer choice is "Studies have shown that pets can help people with problems such as depression and anxiety."

Example Question #7 : Misplaced Or Interrupting Modifier 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.

Only the time that will work for everyone is in the evenings.

Possible Answers:

The only time that will work

Only the time which will work

Only the timing that will work

Only the time that will be working

Only the time that will work

Correct answer:

The only time that will work

Explanation:

The insertion of "only" at the beginning of the sentence creates confusion as to exactly what it is modifying. The word should be moved to make it clear it is modifying "time," which is the way the sentence makes the most sense. Therefore, the correct answer choice is "The only time that will work."

Example Question #8 : Misplaced Or Interrupting Modifier 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.

His manner of speech was like exactly his grandfather's.

Possible Answers:

His manner of speech was like exactly his grandfathers.

His manner in speech was like exactly his grandfather's.

His manner of speech was like exactly that of his grandfather's.

His manner of speech was exactly like his grandfather's.

His manner of speech was like exactly his grandfather's.

Correct answer:

His manner of speech was exactly like his grandfather's.

Explanation:

The placement of "exactly" in the sentence is confusing, as placing it after "like" makes it seem as though the manner was almost exactly or kind of exactly. By placing "exactly" after "was," the comparison between the two manners of speech is more clear, making the correct answer "His manner of speech was exactly like his grandfather's."

Example Question #1 : Correcting Misplaced Or Interrupting Modifier 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.

The new information confused the merely investigative team working on the case.

Possible Answers:

The new information merely confused the investigative team working on the case.

The new information confused the merely investigative team working on the case.

The new information confused merely the investigative team working on the case.

The new merely information confused the investigative team working on the case.

The new information confused the investigative team merely working on the case.

Correct answer:

The new information merely confused the investigative team working on the case.

Explanation:

The word "merely" is dangling in the middle of the sentence, seemingly modifying nothing and making little sense in the sentence. The word should be moved to indicate a clearer usage of the adverb. The place where the word makes most sense is between "information" and "confused," so it is clear that it is modifying the verb "confused."

Example Question #2 : Correcting Misplaced Or Interrupting Modifier 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.

He barely pushed the stone five yards, making him the contestant in last place after the round.

Possible Answers:

He pushed the stone barely five yards,

He barely pushed the stone five yards barely,

He pushed the barely stone five yards,

He barely pushed the stone five yards,

Barely he pushed the stone five yards,

Correct answer:

He pushed the stone barely five yards,

Explanation:

The placement of "barely" in the sentence is extremely odd, as it seems to imply that the subject only lightly pushed, but still got the stone "five yards." The word "barely" needs to be moved to clarify that the stone "barely" made the distance. Thus, "He pushed the stone barely five yards," is the correct answer choice.

Example Question #1301 : Psat Writing Skills

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.

Only the issue that mattered was the territorial rights of each nation.

Possible Answers:

The only issue that mattered

Only the issue that is mattering

Only that issue that mattered

Only the issue that matters

Only the issue that mattered

Correct answer:

The only issue that mattered

Explanation:

The use of "Only" at the beginning of the sentence is strange and confusing, making it unclear what it is modifying. The construction of the rest of the sentence means the word should modify "issue" directly. "The only issue that mattered" is the answer choice that correctly deploys the adjective.

Example Question #5 : Correcting Misplaced Or Interrupting Modifier 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.

After a full night of work, the team had barely dug two feet into the hard ground.

Possible Answers:

barely the team had dug two feet into the hard ground.

the team had dug two feet into the barely hard ground.

the team had dug two feet barely into the hard ground.

the team had barely dug two feet into the hard ground.

the team had dug barely two feet into the hard ground.

Correct answer:

the team had dug barely two feet into the hard ground.

Explanation:

The placement of "barely" in the sentence as confusing, as it modifies "dug" and makes the sentence read that the team was not digging very much. The meaning of the sentence is more clear if "barely" modifies the "two feet" to show how little was actually done. The answer choice that correctly deploys "barely" is "the team had dug barely two feet into the hard ground."

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