ACT English : Comma Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

Example Question #421 : Comma Errors

In legends and stories passed from generation to generation, people have spoken, and written about the mysterious glimmering beauty of the morning star. This twinkling body of light goes under many names. Some call it the morning star, some have called it the evening star, and some call it the planet Venus. The reason we see the morning star is because the planet Venus is somewhere to the left side relative to Earth. As the Earth rotates and the sun "rises" east of where you are positioned, the morning star also catches the sun's light and the reflection of the light off the planet's surface is what we see in the morning. When the planet has moved to the right of the sun, the opposite occurs so we only see the reflection off the planet in the evening as the sun sets. As the planet slowly rotate around the sun, it is possible that the planet could be on the left side in the morning and then the right side in the evening, causing us to see it as both an evening and morning star.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of this passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, please select NO CHANGE. 

Possible Answers:

spoken and written

spoken and written,

NO CHANGE

spoken and, written

spoken; and written

Correct answer:

spoken and written

Explanation:

Commas should be used when a conjunction (in this case, "and") is joining two independent sentences, each with its own subject and verb; however, the conjunction in this sentence is combining an independent sentence and a dependent clause. The phrase that starts with "written" does not have a subject and therefore is not an independent sentence. Commas should not be used when the conjunction is joining one independent and one dependent clause.

Example Question #422 : Comma Errors

In legends and stories passed from generation to generation, people have spoken, and written about the mysterious glimmering beauty of the morning star. This twinkling body of light goes under many names. Some call it the morning star, some have called it the evening star, and some call it the planet Venus. The reason we see the morning star is because the planet Venus is somewhere to the left side relative to Earth. As the Earth rotates and the sun "rises" east of where you are positioned, the morning star also catches the sun's light and the reflection of the light off the planet's surface is what we see in the morning. When the planet has moved to the right of the sun, the opposite occurs, so we only see the reflection off the planet in the evening as the sun sets. As the planet slowly rotate around the sun, it is possible that the planet could be on the left side in the morning and then the right side in the evening, causing us to see it as both an evening and morning star.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of this passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, please select NO CHANGE.

Possible Answers:

mysterious: glimmering 

mysterious; glimmering 

NO CHANGE

mysterious, glimmering, 

mysterious, glimmering 

Correct answer:

mysterious, glimmering 

Explanation:

Commas should be used to separate adjectives before a noun when there is a list of two or more adjectives before the noun, and these adjectives are interchangeable without changing the meaning of the sentence. For example, the phrase "mysterious, glimmering beauty" and "glimmering, mysterious beauty" both have the same meaning. Therefore, a comma must come between the adjectives. In contrast, a phrase such as "beautiful cotton dress" and "cotton beautiful dress" would not convey the same meaning, and so there should not be a comma between these adjectives. 

Example Question #541 : Punctuation Errors

After the unbelievable fame of J.K. Rowling the author of the Harry Potter series hundreds of idealistic authors struggled to achieve similar success. Because of Rowling's legendary accomplishments, we have invited the author, herself to the book signing so that she can share her experience to anyone that wants to listen. Whether you're an amateur writer, expert author, or simply an eager fan, all kinds of people can benefit from her insight. After all, if a person wants to be successful, you have to be willing to listen to the advice of others. If anyone are interested in attending, please contact the office before the end of the month.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of this passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, please select NO CHANGE. 

Possible Answers:

Rowling the author of the Harry Potter series,

Rowling the author, of the Harry Potter series,

Rowling, the author of the Harry Potterseries

Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series,

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series,

Explanation:

The following phrase "the author of the Harry Potter series" is known as an appositive phrase. Appositive phrases describe the noun or pronoun and can be removed from the sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence. If the phrase fits both of these criteria, it is an appositive, and it needs to be surrounded with commas.

Example Question #423 : Comma Errors

After the unbelievable fame of J.K. Rowling the author of the Harry Potter series hundreds of idealistic authors struggled to achieve similar success. Because of Rowling's legendary accomplishments, we have invited the author, herself to the book signing so that she can share her experience to anyone that wants to listen. Whether you're an amateur writer, expert author, or simply an eager fan, all kinds of people can benefit from her insight. After all, if a person wants to be successful, you have to be willing to listen to the advice of others. If anyone are interested in attending, please contact the office before the end of the month.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of this passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, please select NO CHANGE. 

Possible Answers:

the author; herself

the author herself

NO CHANGE

the author herself,

the author, herself,

Correct answer:

the author herself

Explanation:

The word "herself" is an emphatic pronoun, and emphatic pronouns should never be surrounded by commas. Examples of emphatic pronouns include "myself," "yourself," "itself," "ourselves," "yourselves," and "themselves." Emphatic pronouns immediately follow a noun or other other pronoun.

Example Question #424 : Comma Errors

In legends and stories passed from generation to generation, people have spoken, and written about the mysterious glimmering beauty of the morning star. This twinkling body of light goes under many names. Some call it the morning star, some have called it the evening star, and some call it the planet Venus. The reason we see the morning star is because the planet Venus is somewhere to the left side relative to Earth. As the Earth rotates and the sun "rises" east of where you are positioned, the morning star also catches the sun's light and the reflection of the light off the planet's surface is what we see in the morning. When the planet has moved to the right of the sun, the opposite occurs, so we only see the reflection off the planet in the evening as the sun sets. As the planet slowly rotate around the sun, it is possible that the planet could be on the left side in the morning and then the right side in the evening, causing us to see it as both an evening and morning star.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of this passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, please select NO CHANGE. 

Possible Answers:

sun; the opposite

sun, and the opposite

NO CHANGE

sun, but the opposite

sun the opposite

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

Any time a sentence starts with a dependent clause or modifying phrase, it must be followed by a comma. "When the planet has moved to the right of the sun" is a dependent clause that is before the independent clause. Therefore, a comma must separate the two clauses. However, if the clauses were reversed, there would be no need for a comma because the dependent clause comes after the independent clause.

There is no need for semicolons in the entire sentence because there are not two independent clauses being joined.

Example Question #425 : Comma Errors

The rainforest in Borneo which is home to a declining orangutan population is in danger because of the slash and burn agriculture practices of palm oil plantations. As a student of environmental science and policy, I had the opportunity to travel to Borneo with a team of scientists and learn more about the situation.  It was my first time visiting the rainforest, and I was excited to hike, camp, and learning.   At night, we cooked dinner over a small camp stove, but during the day we ate plants along the trail. The biologists's extensive training in botany helped them identify which plants were edible during their trek through the rainforest.  I felt very fortunate to see this beautiful, endangered forest. One of the scientists told me that much of the trails in the forest are impassable during the rainy season. After a few days of trekking, we arrived in a part of the forest that was supposed to be a protected area.  However, the local minister of forestry was known for catering to the wishes of large palm oil plantation owners. The minister was determined to support the lucrative palm oil industry, irregardless of the costs. Consequently, he had recently allowed the area’s largest company to conduct slash-and-burn farming within the boundaries of the protected area. The scientists told me that these practices not only harmed orangutan habitats, and they contributed to global warming by releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide when peat burns on the forest floor.

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

Possible Answers:

Borneo, which is home to a declining orangutan population

Borneo, which is home to a declining orangutan population,

Borneo, which, is home to a declining orangutan population

Borneo which is home to a declining orangutan population,

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

Borneo, which is home to a declining orangutan population,

Explanation:

An interrupting phrase adds description but doesn't fundamentally change the meaning of the sentence (the main point is that the forest is in danger). If you removed it the sentence would still be grammatically correct and complete. As such the interrupting phrase should be offset by commas on each side.

Example Question #545 : Punctuation Errors

"Whomever (1) wins the game will play in the Megabowl," (2) Paul shouted, and Derek wasnt (3) sure how to respond.  He didn't (4) particularly care for football generally, (5) or for the Megabowl specifically but (6) he did not want to upset his best friend, whom (7) was obviously excessively (8) excited about the news.  He took a deep breath then (9) he said  "That's wonderful news (10) Paul.  Where is the game be (11) held?"  Paul grinned and replied, "In Antarctica!"  Derek blinked.  "Since when are they having football games in Antarctica" he (12) asked.  Paul simply smiled and said, "There had to be some good to come out of global warming, right?"

Choose from the following four options the answer that best corrects the underlined mistake preceding the question number. If there is no mistake or the original text is the best option, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

specifically!  But

specifically: but

NO CHANGE

specifically, but

Correct answer:

specifically, but

Explanation:

The clause that follows the contraction, "but," is a complete sentence, so the use of the comma here is appropriate.

Example Question #571 : Correcting Grammatical Errors

Over winter break, our AP Spanish class took a trip to South America to practice the language and learn more about different Spanish-speaking cultures.  Before we left, every student had to get their vaccinations for yellow fever and typhoid. Our first stop was Bolivia. When we landed at El Alto airport the highest in the world, we could see the city of La Paz sprawling up the hillsides in the shadow of the Andes.   The first day in La Paz, we went to the Witches’s Market, run by local yatiri. The yatiri are medical practitioners who perform healing rituals in they’re communities. At the market, we saw dried frogs, llama fetuses, herbs, and seeds, used in various rituals. After we visited La Paz, we traveled to Cochabamba.  Cochabamba is Bolivia’s culinary capital, with delicious specialties such as salteñas and rellenos. In Cochabamba, we also climbed 1400 steps to see the Cristo de La Concordia statue, the tallest of it’s kind in South America. Next, we visited the salt flats of Uyuni.  Several lagoons dotted the high desert landscape, some of who were full of flamingos!

 

On our way out of Bolivia, we stopped at Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian border. Because the lake’s elevation is over 12,000 feet, some of my classmates experienced a bit of altitude sickness.  Despite the altitude sickness, everyone said they loved seeing the beautiful scenery and visiting the mysterious “floating islands” made of reeds.   When we crossed the border into Peru, one of my classmates thought she had lost her passport. I would of had a panic attack! She ended up finding it buried in a pocket of her backpack and we were on our way. 

 

My favorite part of Peru was our trek to the ancient Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. We spent four days hiking in the Andes on a trail to the ruins. Our guides, whom spoke Spanish, English, and Quechua, were very knowledgeable about the history, flora, and fauna in the region.  Upon waking up the next morning, a beautiful sunrise greeted us and cast the mountains in its soft pink glow. After we explored the ruins, we took a train ride back to Cuzco.  The next day, we flew to Lima and prepared to return home. I was sad to leave, but I know I would be back some day!

Select the answer choice that best corrects the bolded, underlined portion of the passage. If the sentence is correct as written, select NO CHANGE.

Possible Answers:

dried frogs llama fetuses herbs, and seeds,

dried frogs llama fetuses herbs and seeds

dried frogs, llama fetuses, herbs, and seeds 

NO CHANGE

dried frogs, llama fetuses herbs and seeds

Correct answer:

dried frogs, llama fetuses, herbs, and seeds 

Explanation:

Each item in the list should be separated by commas, but there is no comma after the last item because it connects directly to the verb phrase describing what the items in the list are used for.

Example Question #547 : Punctuation Errors

Over winter break, our AP Spanish class took a trip to South America to practice the language and learn more about different Spanish-speaking cultures.  Before we left, every student had to get their vaccinations for yellow fever and typhoid. Our first stop was Bolivia. When we landed at El Alto airport the highest in the world, we could see the city of La Paz sprawling up the hillsides in the shadow of the Andes.   The first day in La Paz, we went to the Witches’s Market, run by local yatiri. The yatiri are medical practitioners who perform healing rituals in they’re communities. At the market, we saw dried frogs, llama fetuses, herbs, and seeds, used in various rituals. After we visited La Paz, we traveled to Cochabamba.  Cochabamba is Bolivia’s culinary capital, with delicious specialties such as salteñas and rellenos. In Cochabamba, we also climbed 1400 steps to see the Cristo de La Concordia statue, the tallest of it’s kind in South America. Next, we visited the salt flats of Uyuni.  Several lagoons dotted the high desert landscape, some of who were full of flamingos!

 

On our way out of Bolivia, we stopped at Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian border. Because the lake’s elevation is over 12,000 feet, some of my classmates experienced a bit of altitude sickness.  Despite the altitude sickness, everyone said they loved seeing the beautiful scenery and visiting the mysterious “floating islands” made of reeds.   When we crossed the border into Peru, one of my classmates thought she had lost her passport. I would of had a panic attack! She ended up finding it buried in a pocket of her backpack and we were on our way. 

 

My favorite part of Peru was our trek to the ancient Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. We spent four days hiking in the Andes on a trail to the ruins. Our guides, whom spoke Spanish, English, and Quechua, were very knowledgeable about the history, flora, and fauna in the region.  Upon waking up the next morning, a beautiful sunrise greeted us and cast the mountains in its soft pink glow. After we explored the ruins, we took a train ride back to Cuzco.  The next day, we flew to Lima and prepared to return home. I was sad to leave, but I know I would be back some day!

Select the answer choice that best corrects the bolded, underlined portion of the passage. If the sentence is correct as written, select NO CHANGE.

Possible Answers:

at El Alto airport that which is the highest in the world

at El Alto airport the highest in the world

NO CHANGE

at El Alto airport, the highest in the world,

at El Alto airport, the highest, in the world,

Correct answer:

at El Alto airport, the highest in the world,

Explanation:

The phrase "the highest in the world" describes El Alto airport but is not necessary to make the sentence complete. Descriptive phrases that come after the subject and are not necessary parts of the sentence are offset by commas on both sides. 

Example Question #541 : Punctuation Errors

Adapted from "The Weakness, Unrest, and Defects of Man," from The Thoughts of Blaise Pascal (ed. 1901)

We care nothing for the present. We anticipate the future as too slow in coming, as if we could make it move faster; or we call back the past, to stop its rapid flight. So imprudent are we that we wander through the times in which we have no part, unthinking of that which alone is ours; so frivolous are we that we dream of the days which are not and pass by without reflection those which alone exist. For the days of the present generally gives us pain; we conceal it from our sight because it afflicts us, and if it be pleasant, we regret to see it vanish away. We endeavor to sustain the present by the future, and think of arranging things not in our power, for a time at which we have no certainty of arriving.

If we examine our thoughts, we shall find them always occupied with the past or the future. We scarcely think of the present, and if we do so, it is only that we may borrow light from it to direct the future. The present is never our end; the past and the present are our means, the future alone is our end. Thus we never live, but hope to live, and while we always lay ourselves out to be happy, it is inevitable that we can never be so.

Which of the following is the best form of the bolded and underlined selection, “back the past . . .”?

Possible Answers:

back the past to stop its

back the past—to stop its

back the past; to stop its

back the past, to stop its

Correct answer:

back the past to stop its

Explanation:

In this sentence, "to" is being used in the sense of meaning "in order to." Looking at the clause, the comma breaks the flow of the thought and is not helpful given the simplicity of the second half of the predicate: "we call back the past in order to stop its flight." An increase in the number of commas in a sentence is not always the best policy for clarity.

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