ACT English : Comma Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

Example Question #131 : Comma Errors

Jeremy had no luck convincing the members of the orchestral committee about his suggestions. He pleaded, cajoled, was begging, and even threatened the committee at various times, but yet despite being the conductor, he couldnt get them to agree to his requests. Despite many attempts, the committee would not listen to him. In the end, he decided to go through with the Christmas concert despite him not having his favorite composer on the program. Afterward, one of his friends, whom was in the audience, came up and asked him why was there no Handel on the program? "I did try" Jeremy replied "but the committee were unanimously against me. I nearly begged them all day to put one piece on the program. But try as I might I could not get a Handel on it."

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

Possible Answers:

might:

might,

might;

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

might,

Explanation:

"But try as I might" works as an introductory phrase and thus should be followed by a comma.

Example Question #131 : Comma Errors

Adapted from “Authority: The Unavoidable” in What’s Wrong with the World by G.K. Chesterton (1912)

The important point here is only that you cannot get rid of authority in education. It is not so much that parental authority ought to be preserved. The more, important truth, is that such authority cannot be destroyed. Mr. Bernard Shaw once said that he had hated the idea of forming a child's mind. In that case, Mr. Bernard Shaw had better hang himself, for he hates something inseparable from human life. I only mentioned [earlier in the book] the drawing out of the child’s abilities in order to point out that even this mental trick does not avoid the idea of parental or scholastic authority. The educator's drawing out is just as arbitrary and coercive as the instructor’s action, for he draws out what he chooses. He decides what in the child shall be developed and what shall not be developed.

The only result of all this pompous distinction between the “educator” and the “instructor” is who the instructor pokes where he likes and the educator pulls where he likes. Exactly the same intellectual violence is done to the creature whom is poked and pulled. We must all except the responsibility of this intellectual violence, whether from poking or from pulling.

Education is violent; because it is creative. It is such because it is human. It is as reckless as playing on the fiddle, as dogmatic as drawing a picture, as brutal as building a house. In short, it is what all human action is, it is an interference with life and growth. After that it is a trifling and even a jocular question whether we say of this tremendous tormentor, the artist Man, that he puts things into us like a pharmacist or draws things out of us.

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

Possible Answers:

The more important truth is that such authority cannot be destroyed.

The more, important truth is that such authority cannot be destroyed.

NO CHANGE

The more important truth, is, that such authority cannot be destroyed.

Correct answer:

The more important truth is that such authority cannot be destroyed.

Explanation:

Do not be fooled into thinking that more commas necessarily result in a better and clearer sentence. This sentence is relatively straightforward. The subject is relatively simple. "More" is an adverb modifying "important," which is an adjective modifying "truth." There is no need to separate any of these words with commas. The predicate of the sentence merely has the indirect statement "that such authority cannot be destroyed." There is no need to separate this off by commas in any way. Do not be tricked by how you might speak the sentence (i.e. how you might pause when saying the words).

Example Question #273 : Correcting Grammatical Errors

Thomas placed his quill on the parchment, looking toward the mantel upon which, earlier that morning, he saw the painting of the old monastic saint, Benedict of Nursia. To his surprise, the mantel was empty, not having any items on it’s narrow flat surface. As the image had been a gift from his old schoolmaster; he was concerned at the absence of the item.

He asked himselfWhere could it have went?” Then, he gathered together his work and decided to ask one of his officemates about the cherished image. Leaving the room, he entered the foyer and turning to the secretary asked about the whereabouts of the others’.

The secretary looked at Thomas’ imposing figure and answered, “A group of the professors departed earlier for a University meeting; however, I cant recall exactly when they departed.” Although Thomas was not known for being passionate, the young secretary could see that he was agitated than usual.

The older man did not wish to worry his younger coworker. Smiling slightly, he said, “Don’t worry, Reginald. I seem to have misplaced my image of Benedict, though I know not how.” He continued by telling the younger man the chronology of events. Suddenly, the detailed recounting jogged the latters’ memory. He forgot an obvious detail that he only now remembered.

Looking at Thomas in embarrassment, Reginald, said, “Earlier this afternoon, I came in to your working area take the painting. Bonaventure had come to visit and asked to borrow it. You were so engrossed by you’re work that I did not want to disturb you. He will be stopping by to see you and I later today, so we can ask him to return it.”

What is the best form of the bolded selection, "narrow flat surface"?

Possible Answers:

narrowly flat surface

NO CHANGE

surface, narrow and flat

narrow, flat surface

Correct answer:

narrow, flat surface

Explanation:

Some context and good sense will help you to approach this quesiton. The expression "narrowly flat" does not make much sense, at least in this case. Likewise, since the author is talking about a "mantel," he is talking about a shelf above a fireplace. You can be almost certain that he is talking about the "upper surface." Therefore, it doesn't make sense to have "narrow" be a modifier of the complex expression "flat surface." Instead, both "narrow" and "flat" are modifiers of "surface." This requires you to use a comma to separate the adjectives.

Example Question #274 : Correcting Grammatical Errors

Thomas placed his quill on the parchment, looking toward the mantel upon which, earlier that morning, he saw the painting of the old monastic saint, Benedict of Nursia. To his surprise, the mantel was empty, not having any items on it’s narrow flat surface. As the image had been a gift from his old schoolmaster; he was concerned at the absence of the item.

He asked himselfWhere could it have went?” Then, he gathered together his work and decided to ask one of his officemates about the cherished image. Leaving the room, he entered the foyer and turning to the secretary asked about the whereabouts of the others’.

The secretary looked at Thomas’ imposing figure and answered, “A group of the professors departed earlier for a University meeting; however, I cant recall exactly when they departed.” Although Thomas was not known for being passionate, the young secretary could see that he was agitated than usual.

The older man did not wish to worry his younger coworker. Smiling slightly, he said, “Don’t worry, Reginald. I seem to have misplaced my image of Benedict, though I know not how.” He continued by telling the younger man the chronology of events. Suddenly, the detailed recounting jogged the latters’ memory. He forgot an obvious detail that he only now remembered.

Looking at Thomas in embarrassment, Reginald, said, “Earlier this afternoon, I came in to your working area take the painting. Bonaventure had come to visit and asked to borrow it. You were so engrossed by you’re work that I did not want to disturb you. He will be stopping by to see you and I later today, so we can ask him to return it.”

What is the best form of the bolded selection, "He asked himself"?

Possible Answers:

He asked him,

He asked him

NO CHANGE

He asked himself,

Correct answer:

He asked himself,

Explanation:

Two things are necessary for answering this question correctly. First, notice the context. There is nothing indicating that Thomas is speaking to anyone else. Therefore, the use of the reflexive "himself" is the appropriate pronoun usage. Now, notice that the original version did not separate the main sentence from the quote. This shift into quotation requires the use of a comma.

Example Question #275 : Correcting Grammatical Errors

Thomas placed his quill on the parchment, looking toward the mantel upon which, earlier that morning, he saw the painting of the old monastic saint, Benedict of Nursia. To his surprise, the mantel was empty, not having any items on it’s narrow flat surface. As the image had been a gift from his old schoolmaster; he was concerned at the absence of the item.

He asked himselfWhere could it have went?” Then, he gathered together his work and decided to ask one of his officemates about the cherished image. Leaving the room, he entered the foyer and turning to the secretary asked about the whereabouts of the others’.

The secretary looked at Thomas’ imposing figure and answered, “A group of the professors departed earlier for a University meeting; however, I cant recall exactly when they departed.” Although Thomas was not known for being passionate, the young secretary could see that he was agitated than usual.

The older man did not wish to worry his younger coworker. Smiling slightly, he said, “Don’t worry, Reginald. I seem to have misplaced my image of Benedict, though I know not how.” He continued by telling the younger man the chronology of events. Suddenly, the detailed recounting jogged the latters’ memory. He forgot an obvious detail that he only now remembered.

Looking at Thomas in embarrassment, Reginald, said, “Earlier this afternoon, I came in to your working area take the painting. Bonaventure had come to visit and asked to borrow it. You were so engrossed by you’re work that I did not want to disturb you. He will be stopping by to see you and I later today, so we can ask him to return it.”

What is the best version of the bolded selection, "foyer and turning to the secretary asked"?

Possible Answers:

foyer and turned to the secretary asking

foyer and, turning to the secretary, asked

foyer, and turning to the secretary asked

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

foyer and, turning to the secretary, asked

Explanation:

The issue with the sentence as written is that the participial phrase "turning to the secretary" is not adequately marked off from the second half of the main clause's predicate. Simplifying our sentence a bit, we could say: "Thomas entered . . . and asked." This is a case of a compound predicate. Since the participial phrase is interposed between the conjunction and the verb, it is best to separate it from the main action of the sentence by using a pair of commas.

Example Question #132 : Comma Errors

Known as Prohibition the political fight in the United States to ban the sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol took a long time. The official ratification of the 18th Amendment, which banned alcohol, took place in January of 1919, after Nebraska became the 36th state to have its legislature ratify the amendment. The Amendment had first been passed of the United States Senate in 1917, and needed vigorous political action taken by its supporters just to get the necessary 36 states to ratify it. Its official enactment on January 1, 1920 was met with equal amounts of relief and joy by it’s proponents.

Most of them had been fighting to ban alcohol for decades. The American Temperance Society was founding in 1826. Frances Willard had been running the Women’s Christian Temperance Union for decades by the time a national debate was taking place on Prohibition. Carrie Nation had banded together women in the Midwest since the turn of the century to destroy bars and saloons with her trademark hatchet. The Anti-Saloon league organized thousands of everyday Americans to vote against any politician that did not support Prohibition. A burgeoning movement had grown into a legitimate groundswell, by the late 1910s.

After the ratification of the 18th Amendment, few of these supporters thought that it would be the abject failure it turned out to be. Most Americans did not want the absolute ban of all sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol. The most enterprising Americans found many illicit ways to profit from alcohol’s new illegal status. Americans looking for alcohol were seldom out of options, as every corner had either a speakeasy or a bootlegger selling imported or homemade liquor. Criminal organizations grew in strength thanks to profits from illegal booze, and federal agents were hopelessly outmanned of mobsters and thugs. On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution repealed the 18th Amendment, eliminating the Prohibition of alcohol and turning back the work of all of the Prohibition activists.

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

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

a legitimate groundswell by the late 1910s

a legitimate grounswell, for the late 1910s

a legitmating groundswell, by the late 1910s

Correct answer:

a legitimate groundswell by the late 1910s

Explanation:

The insertion of the comma between the word "groundswell" and the prepositional phrase divides the sentence awkwardly and confusingly. Both prepositional phrases, "into a legitimate groundswell" and "by the late 1910s," modify the verb "grown," and should be directly connected to it. Therefore, the correct answer choice is "into a legitimate groundswell by the late 1910s."

Example Question #134 : Comma Errors

As a child the only thing I wanted to be was a race car driver. My mothers family all lived in central Indiana, and I went to the Indianapolis 500 every year growing up. Between the colors on the cars the speed of the race and the enthusiasm of the crowd, nothing in the world seemed more exciting to a child. I would lay awake at night thinking about getting behind the wheel of my own race car. My bedroom walls were adorned with posters of the all great racers from all over the world.

When I was a teenager, I had the opportunity to race go karts on small tracks against other kids my age. Very quickly I realized I am the terrible driver. Any bumping with another driver was too much for me to handle, and I could not take the turns quick enough to keep pace with the best drivers. None of this diminished my love of racing, however, because just being at the track was such a thrill. The noise, the speed, and rushing were all more exciting from the pits than from the grandstand. If I could never be in the driver’s seat, then I would place myself behind the scenes.

With this new focus, I began studying mechanical engineering and automotive design. I might not have been able to drive a race car; but now I could design a car, build a car, and engineer it to win a race. The drivers still get all the credit for the championships, but everyone knows they would never win without the people like myself.

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

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

Between the colors on the cars the speed of the race, the enthusiasm of the crowd

Between, the colors on the cars, the speed of the race, and the enthusiasm of the crowd

Between the colors on the cars, the speed of the race, and the enthusiasm of the crowd

Correct answer:

Between the colors on the cars, the speed of the race, and the enthusiasm of the crowd

Explanation:

Any list like the one that makes up the underlined portion of the passage must have its separate elements delineated by commas. In particular, if a sentence contains a list of multi-word items, one can add a great deal of clarity to a sentence by inserting commas between its elements. "Between the colors on the cars, the speed of the race, and the enthusiasm of the crowd" is the only answer choice that correctly uses commas in the list.

Example Question #135 : Comma Errors

Adapted from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843)

The ghost on hearing this set up another cry and clanked its chain so hideously in the dead silence of the night that the police has been justified in indicting it for a nuisance.

"Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed," cried the phantom, "not to know that ages of incessant labor, by immortal creatures, for, this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed! Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness! Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunities misused! Yet such was I. Oh, such was I."

"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob" faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Ghost wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive position of my business!"

Which of the following is the best form for the bolded selection?

Possible Answers:

business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who

business Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who

NO CHANGE

business Jacob" faltered Scrooge who

Correct answer:

business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who

Explanation:

Several commas are necessary in this answer: (1) before "Jacob" to show that he is being directly addressed; (2) after Jacob to separate this portion of the sentence from the direct quotation; (3) after Scrooge to separate this from the relative clause starting with "who."

Example Question #136 : Comma Errors

Adapted from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843)

The ghost on hearing this set up another cry and clanked its chain so hideously in the dead silence of the night that the police has been justified in indicting it for a nuisance.

"Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed," cried the phantom, "not to know that ages of incessant labor, by immortal creatures, for, this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed! Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness! Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunities misused! Yet such was I. Oh, such was I."

"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob" faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Ghost wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive position of my business!"

Which of the following is the best form of the bolded section?

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

The ghost on hearing this, set up another cry

The ghost, on hearing this, set up another cry

The ghost on hearing this set up, another, cry

Correct answer:

The ghost, on hearing this, set up another cry

Explanation:

The clause "on hearing this" is an informal expression meaning "at the time that he heard this." The main clause could be written, "The ghost set up another cry." The clause "on hearing this" should be separated from the main clause using commas.

Example Question #137 : Comma Errors

The cat made it clear to Jeremy whom was the boss around the house. The only time it showed him any affection was when it was time for the cat to be fed, the moment at which it would rub up against his legs and purr loudly enough to be heard. But as soon as the food hit the cat dish, it would run to the dish, gorging itself, and then ignore him the rest of the day. If he attempts to pet the cat at any other time, it will hiss and spit at him trying to bite him. Playing with the cat was even worst because it would wait until Jeremy was dangling something over it's face and then leap up to sink its fangs into his' hand. Eventually he would give up trying to be affectionate toward the cat and simply interacted with it every morning at feeding time. It was safer that way.

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

Possible Answers:

him and try

NO CHANGE

him, and try

him, trying

Correct answer:

him, trying

Explanation:

The use of a comma and "trying" lets us know that the phrase that follows the comma adds extra information to the sentence, which can be taken out without affecting the meaning of the rest.

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