ACT English : Comma Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

Example Question #151 : Punctuation Errors

Adapted from Looking Backward: 2000 to 1887 by Edward Bellamy (1888)

I first saw the light in the city of Boston in the year 1857. "What" you say "eighteen fifty-seven? That is an odd slip. He means nineteen fifty-seven, of course." I beg pardon, but there is no mistake. It was about four in the afternoon of December the 26th, one day after Christmas, in the year 1857, not 1957, that I first breathed the east wind of Boston, which, I assure the reader, was at that remote period marked by the same penetrating quality characterizing it in the present year of grace, 2000.

These statements seem so absurd on their face, especially when I add that I am a young man apparently of about thirty years of age, that no person can be blamed for refusing to read another word of what promises to be a mere imposition upon his credulity. Nevertheless I earnestly assure the reader that no imposition is intended, and will undertake if he shall follow me a few pages to entirely convince him of this. If I may, then, provisionally assume, with the pledge of justifying the assumption, that I know better than the reader when I was born, I will go on with my narrative.

Which is the best form of the underlined section?

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

undertake if he shall follow me a few pages, to

undertake, if he shall follow me a few pages, to

undertake, if he shall follow me a few pages to

Correct answer:

undertake, if he shall follow me a few pages, to

Explanation:

The phrase "if he shall follow me a few pages" can be removed from the sentence in which it appears without changing that sentence's meaning, so it needs to be set off by commas.

Example Question #41 : Comma Errors

Adapted from "The Ephemera: An Emblem of Human Life" by Benjamin Franklin (1778)

You may remember, my dear friend, that when we lately spent that happy day in the delightful garden and sweet society of the Moulin Joly, I stopped a little in one of our walks, and stay some time behind the company. We had been shown numberless skeletons of a kind of little fly, called an ephemera, whose successive generations, we were told, were bred and expired within the day. I happened to see a living company of them on a leaf, who appeared to be engaged in conversation. You know I understand all the inferior animal tongues. My too great application to the study of them is the best excuse I can give for the little progress I have made in your charming language. I listened through curiosity to the discourse of these little creatures; but as they, in their national vivacity, spoke three or four together, I could make but little of their conversation. I found however by some broken expressions that I heard now and then, they were disputing warmly on the merit of two foreign musicians, one a "cousin," the other a "moscheto": in which dispute they spent their time, seemingly as regardless of the shortness of life as if they had been sure of living a month. Happy people! thought I; you are certainly under a wise just and mild government, since you have no public grievances to complain of, nor any subject of contention but the perfections and imperfections of foreign music. I turned my head from them to an old gray-headed one, who was single on another leaf, and talking to himself. Being amused with his soliloquy, I put it down in writing, in hopes it will likewise amuse her to who I am so much indebted for the most pleasing of all amusements, her delicious company and heavenly harmony.

Which is the best form of the underlined section, "I found however by"?

Possible Answers:

I found however, by

I found, however by

NO CHANGE

I found, however, by

Correct answer:

I found, however, by

Explanation:

The word "however" is operating as an adverb and is adding extra information to the sentence that is not necessary to its meaning, so it should be set off in commas.

Example Question #41 : Comma Errors

Adapted from "The Ephemera: An Emblem of Human Life" by Benjamin Franklin (1778)

You may remember, my dear friend, that when we lately spent that happy day in the delightful garden and sweet society of the Moulin Joly, I stopped a little in one of our walks, and stay some time behind the company. We had been shown numberless skeletons of a kind of little fly, called an ephemera, whose successive generations, we were told, were bred and expired within the day. I happened to see a living company of them on a leaf, who appeared to be engaged in conversation. You know I understand all the inferior animal tongues. My too great application to the study of them is the best excuse I can give for the little progress I have made in your charming language. I listened through curiosity to the discourse of these little creatures; but as they, in their national vivacity, spoke three or four together, I could make but little of their conversation. I found however by some broken expressions that I heard now and then, they were disputing warmly on the merit of two foreign musicians, one a "cousin," the other a "moscheto": in which dispute they spent their time, seemingly as regardless of the shortness of life as if they had been sure of living a month. Happy people! thought I; you are certainly under a wise just and mild government, since you have no public grievances to complain of, nor any subject of contention but the perfections and imperfections of foreign music. I turned my head from them to an old gray-headed one, who was single on another leaf, and talking to himself. Being amused with his soliloquy, I put it down in writing, in hopes it will likewise amuse her to who I am so much indebted for the most pleasing of all amusements, her delicious company and heavenly harmony.

 

Which is the best form of the underlined section "'moscheto': in"?

Possible Answers:

"moscheto," in

"moscheto", in

NO CHANGE

"moscheto;" in

Correct answer:

"moscheto," in

Explanation:

The phrase that follows "mosceto" is a continuation of the same sentence, so a comma, placed inside the quotation marks, is appropriate.

Example Question #162 : Punctuation Errors

Adapted from "The Ephemera: An Emblem of Human Life" by Benjamin Franklin (1778)

You may remember, my dear friend, that when we lately spent that happy day in the delightful garden and sweet society of the Moulin Joly, I stopped a little in one of our walks, and stay some time behind the company. We had been shown numberless skeletons of a kind of little fly, called an ephemera, whose successive generations, we were told, were bred and expired within the day. I happened to see a living company of them on a leaf, who appeared to be engaged in conversation. You know I understand all the inferior animal tongues. My too great application to the study of them is the best excuse I can give for the little progress I have made in your charming language. I listened through curiosity to the discourse of these little creatures; but as they, in their national vivacity, spoke three or four together, I could make but little of their conversation. I found however by some broken expressions that I heard now and then, they were disputing warmly on the merit of two foreign musicians, one a "cousin," the other a "moscheto": in which dispute they spent their time, seemingly as regardless of the shortness of life as if they had been sure of living a month. Happy people! thought I; you are certainly under a wise just and mild government, since you have no public grievances to complain of, nor any subject of contention but the perfections and imperfections of foreign music. I turned my head from them to an old gray-headed one, who was single on another leaf, and talking to himself. Being amused with his soliloquy, I put it down in writing, in hopes it will likewise amuse her to who I am so much indebted for the most pleasing of all amusements, her delicious company and heavenly harmony.

Which is the best form of the underlined section "wise just and mild government"?

Possible Answers:

wise, just and mild government

wise just, and mild government

NO CHANGE

wise, just, and mild government

Correct answer:

wise, just, and mild government

Explanation:

For a series of three or more elements, commas should be placed after each element, even the last element in the list, so as to avoid confusion.

Example Question #41 : Comma Errors

Adapted from "Nature" by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1836)

To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are! If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence. Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection. Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit. The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood.

Which is the best form of the underlined section, "worlds, will"?

Possible Answers:

worlds: will

worlds will

worlds; will

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

worlds will

Explanation:

Although it was common to place commas between a subject and its verb in Emerson's time to mark emphasis, we would not use the comma in this spot today.

Example Question #42 : Comma Errors

Adapted from "Nature" by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1836)

To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are! If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence. Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection. Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit. The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood.

Which of the following would be an acceptable replacement for the underlined phrase "believe and adore; and preserve" in modern English?

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

believe; adore; and preserve

believe, adore; and preserve

believe and adore, and preserve

Correct answer:

believe and adore, and preserve

Explanation:

Emerson likely intended "believe and adore" to act as a grammatical thought separate from the "preserve" phrase, so the best answer choice is to retain this grouping, but change the semicolon to a comma. A comma is the more appropriate choice in modern English, as the second sentence begins with "and," making it more likely to be read as a dependent clause than an independent clause, as not many independent clauses begin with "and" in modern English.

Example Question #42 : Comma Errors

Adapted from "Nature" by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1836)

To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are! If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence. Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection. Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit. The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood.

Which of the following would be the best replacement for the underlined selection, "impression, when"?

Possible Answers:

impression; when

impression therefore when

impression: when

impression when

Correct answer:

impression when

Explanation:

While Emerson uses a comma here, to the contemporary eye the sentence looks like a complete statement and thus requires no comma.

Example Question #531 : Act English

Adapted from "Nature" by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1836)

To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are! If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence. Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection. Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit. The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood.

Which of the following would be an acceptable replacement for the underlined section "hour, as"?

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

hour as

hour: as

hour; as

Correct answer:

hour as

Explanation:

In contemporary English, we would most likely view the entire sentence as one single statement and omit the comma entirely.

Example Question #43 : Comma Errors

Adapted from “The Nose Tree” in German Fairy Tales and Popular Stories by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm (trans. Taylor, ed. 1864)

Then the king made known to all his kingdom, that whomever would heal her of this dreadful disease should be richly rewarded. Many tried, but the princess got no relief. Now the old soldier dressed himself up very sprucely as a doctor, and said he could cure her. Therefore, he chopped up some of the apple, and, to punish her a little more, gave her a dose, saying he would call to-morrow and see her again. The morrow came, and, of course, instead of being better, the nose had been growing on all night as before; and the poor princess was in a dreadful fright. So the doctor then chopped up a very little of the pear and gave it to her. He said that he was sure that it would help, and he would call again the next day. Next day came, and the nose was to be sure a little smaller. However, it was bigger than when the doctor first began to meddle with it.

Then he thought to him, "I must frighten this cunning princess a little more before I am able to get what I want from her." Therefore, he gave her another dose of the apple and said he would call on the morrow. The morrow came, and the nose was ten times bad as before.

"My good lady," said the doctor, "Something works against my medicine and is to strong for it. However, I know by the force of my art that it is this, you have stolen goods about you. I am certain of it. If you do not give them back, I can do nothing for you."

The princess denied very stoutly that she had anything of the kind.

"Very well," said the doctor, "you may do as you please, but I am sure I am correct. You will die if you do not own it." Then he went to the king, and told him how the matter stood.

"Daughter," said he, "send back the cloak, the purse, and the horn, that you stole from the right owners."

Then she ordered her maid to fetch all three and gave them to the doctor, and begged him to give them back to the soldiers. The moment he had them safe, he gave her a whole pear to eat, and the nose came right. And as for the doctor, he put on the cloak, wished the king and all his court a good day and was soon with his two brothers. They lived from that time happily at home in their palace, except when they took an airing to see the world in their coach with their three dapple-grey horses.

What is the best form of the underlined selection?

Possible Answers:

"My good lady." said the doctor, "Something works against

"My good lady," said the doctor, "something works against

NO CHANGE

"My good lady" said the doctor, "Something works against

Correct answer:

"My good lady," said the doctor, "something works against

Explanation:

As written, the problem with the selection is the fact that the word "something" is capitalized. When a quotation is being continued in the middle of a sentence, you do not capitalize the beginning of the new portion of the quote.

Example Question #41 : Comma Errors

Adapted from “The Nose Tree” in German Fairy Tales and Popular Stories by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm (trans. Taylor, ed. 1864)

Then the king made known to all his kingdom, that whomever would heal her of this dreadful disease should be richly rewarded. Many tried, but the princess got no relief. Now the old soldier dressed himself up very sprucely as a doctor, and said he could cure her. Therefore, he chopped up some of the apple, and, to punish her a little more, gave her a dose, saying he would call to-morrow and see her again. The morrow came, and, of course, instead of being better, the nose had been growing on all night as before; and the poor princess was in a dreadful fright. So the doctor then chopped up a very little of the pear and gave it to her. He said that he was sure that it would help, and he would call again the next day. Next day came, and the nose was to be sure a little smaller. However, it was bigger than when the doctor first began to meddle with it.

Then he thought to him, "I must frighten this cunning princess a little more before I am able to get what I want from her." Therefore, he gave her another dose of the apple and said he would call on the morrow. The morrow came, and the nose was ten times bad as before.

"My good lady," said the doctor, "Something works against my medicine and is to strong for it. However, I know by the force of my art that it is this, you have stolen goods about you. I am certain of it. If you do not give them back, I can do nothing for you."

The princess denied very stoutly that she had anything of the kind.

"Very well," said the doctor, "you may do as you please, but I am sure I am correct. You will die if you do not own it." Then he went to the king, and told him how the matter stood.

"Daughter," said he, "send back the cloak, the purse, and the horn, that you stole from the right owners."

Then she ordered her maid to fetch all three and gave them to the doctor, and begged him to give them back to the soldiers. The moment he had them safe, he gave her a whole pear to eat, and the nose came right. And as for the doctor, he put on the cloak, wished the king and all his court a good day and was soon with his two brothers. They lived from that time happily at home in their palace, except when they took an airing to see the world in their coach with their three dapple-grey horses.

Which is the the best form of the underlined selection?

Possible Answers:

"Very well." Said the doctor. "You may do as

NO CHANGE

"Very well," said the doctor: "you may do as

"Very well", said the doctor, "you may do as

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

The selection is correct as written. All of the wrong answers misuse punctuation in various ways. The first comma should lie within the quotation marks. You could place a period after "doctor"; however, you would still need to retain the connection (via comma) with the initial portion of the quotation.

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