PSAT Writing : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

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.

John likes take a walk through the woods in the park because John likes the smell of the trees.

Possible Answers:

park because he likes the smell of the trees.

park; however, he likes the smell of the trees.

park, liking the smell of the trees.

park because John likes the smell of the trees.

park; John likes the smell of the trees.

Correct answer:

park because he likes the smell of the trees.

Explanation:

The only problem with the original sentence is that “John” is repeated unnecessarily. Replacing it with a pronoun the second time is a good solution. The other answer choices switch up the coordinators, but this is not a good idea. The relationship between the two parts of the sentence is cause/effect, so “because” is appropriate, not “however” or no coordinator.

Example Question #14 : Improving Sentences

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.

Martha, Harriet, and Blythe went to the movies on Friday night; she was able to get the last ticket to the latest blockbuster.

Possible Answers:

the last ticket to the latest blockbuster was hers.

they were able to get the last tickets to the latest blockbuster.

the last tickets to the latest blockbuster were theirs.

she was just getting the last ticket to the latest blockbuster.

she was able to get the last ticket to the latest blockbuster.

Correct answer:

they were able to get the last tickets to the latest blockbuster.

Explanation:

In the original sentence, the pronoun “she” is ambiguous. Who does it refer to? One way to fix this would be to specify the person, another (used in the correct answer here) is to change the pronoun to “they” and refer to all three people. The choices that reverse the order of this phrase are awkwardly passive, and “just getting” is an unnecessary use of progressive tense.

Example Question #2 : Correcting Pronoun Errors: Ambiguity

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.

Doctors are notorious for having poor handwriting skills, and many pharmacists regularly complain about their prescriptions.

Possible Answers:

but many pharmacists regularly complain about their prescriptions

and many regular pharmacists complain about their prescriptions

and many pharmacists regularly complain about their prescription

and many pharmacists regularly complain about their prescriptions

and many pharmacists regularly complain about doctors' prescriptions

Correct answer:

and many pharmacists regularly complain about doctors' prescriptions

Explanation:

The sentence has a vague pronoun reference. The use of "their" before "prescriptions" is ambiguous because we do not know if "their" refers to the doctors' or the pharmacists' prescriptions. The sentence needs to clarify to whom the pronoun refers, so the best answer choice is the one that does this, "and many pharmacists regularly complain about doctors' prescriptions."

Example Question #16 : Improving Sentences

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.

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that I agree more with him.

Possible Answers:

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that I agree more with him.

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that I agree more with Kennedy.  

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that the one that I agreed with.  

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that the one with whom I agreed was him.  

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that I agree more with he.  

Correct answer:

Yesterday, you asked me whether I agree more with John F. Kennedy or Richard Nixon; after reading about their policies, I realize that I agree more with Kennedy.  

Explanation:

It is unclear if the “him” refers to Kennedy or Nixon. The correct answer makes it clear with whom I agree. 

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