ACT English : Period, Exclamation Point, and Question Mark Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

Example Question #21 : Period, Exclamation Point, And Question Mark Errors

During the final months of 2007, the prices of basic grains nearly doubled in Northern Africa, Latin America, and much of Asia, the high prices caused a global food crisis. The catastrophe sparked and incited an international debate regarding the licensing of new technologies to developing nations. One economist warned that because of the risk of unforeseen price shocks, officials should proceed very cautiously. The construction of private farms pose a serious financial threat to farmers in the United States; nevertheless, of the five most industrialized nations, the United States exports more crops.  

How do some countries cope with food crises better than others. It is technology that accounts for the majority of the difference. The rate at which countries adopt innovations depends significantly on environmental factors. These environmental factors include climate, soil and elevation. The variability in environment inhibits new technologies from gaining worldwide popularity that are suited for one particular region over another. For example, the pesticides used in Europe are much more acidic than North America. Without the different levels of acidity, pests would prevent the crops to grow.

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:

others—

NO CHANGE

others?

others,

others;

Correct answer:

others?

Explanation:

The phrase "How do some countries cope with food crises better than others" is an interrogative—that is, a question. We know it is a question because 1) it starts with an interrogative word, "how," and 2) because the question support word "do" is inserted.

The appropriate punctuation to follow an interrogative is a question mark, so the answer choice "others?" is correct.

Example Question #761 : Correcting Grammatical 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:

why was there no Handel on the program.

there was no Handel on the program.

NO CHANGE

there was no Handel on the program?

Correct answer:

there was no Handel on the program.

Explanation:

The original sentence is a direct question, but since the speaker is not being quoted directly, it should be worded and punctuated as an indirect question; thus "why there was no Handel on the program," followed by a period, is the most appropriate choice here.

Example Question #22 : Period, Exclamation Point, And Question Mark 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:

Yet such was I; Oh, such was I!

Yet such was I? Oh, such was I!

NO CHANGE

Yet such was I! Oh, such was I!

Correct answer:

Yet such was I! Oh, such was I!

Explanation:

The author has been using exclamation points for a number of the sentences in this paragraph already. Clearly, he is trying to express a sense of continued exclaiming that is becoming shorter and more direct as the paragraph ends. Therefore, the best option is the one that has two exclamation points. Though this appears to be redundant, it matches the style and tone being employed by the author.

Example Question #21 : Period, Exclamation Point, And Question Mark Errors

Paul stood waiting, for the meeting with James. He had arrived early at the little alleyway in northern Bramville, waiting to meet the other man at a pub named the “Pick and the Shovel.” The whole situation was extremely strange, for Paul had never met James. Indeed, nobody whom Paul knew had met him. Hitherto, the mysterious man had been nothing more than a voice on the phone and a conversationalist via e-mail.

The making, of the trip to Bramville, was utterly unexpected, and his companions had encouraged him to reconnoiter the situation, record his thoughts, and communicate them within the coming week. Many peoples’ fates rode on the character of this mysterious man, this James. By stroke of luck, Paul was about to meet him.

Although Paul was quite certain that this was the appropriate course of action, he was still quite unnerved. Thousands of miles from his home, far from any friends, and without a cell phone, he could well be the target of a dangerous man. For this reason, he watched very intently as every person passed by, particularly those men who were alone. Many times, he asked himself, “Is that him”?

Thus, Paul watched and waited, somewhat overcome with fear yet also anxious to meet this mysterious man. It was time for a meeting with this man, upon whose mysterious persona were placed so many hopes. Though Paul was nervous to be the person to meet James, he knew that he was the man to whom this task had been appointed by fate.

Which of the following is the best option for the bolded sentence beginning, “Many times, he asked himself…”?

Possible Answers:

Many times, he asked, himself, "Is that him?"

Many times he asked himself "Is that him"?

Many times, he asked himself, "Is that him?"

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

Many times, he asked himself, "Is that him?"

Explanation:

There are two rules that you can use to eliminate the wrong answers here. The first is that the question mark should be within the quotation. The question itself is what Paul is asking. This is contrasted to saying something like this: "Did you tell him, 'Go to the garage'?" In this case, the quotation is not a question. The other wrong option has far too many commas that do nothing but make matters difficult to understand by means of many unnecessary pauses.

Example Question #24 : Period, Exclamation Point, And Question Mark Errors

Passage adapted from Anna Sewell's Black Beauty (1877)

Mr. Blomefield, the vicar, had a large family of boys and girls; sometimes they used to come and play with Miss Jessie and Flora. One of the girls was as old as Miss Jessie; two of the boys were older, and there were several little ones. When they came there was plenty of work for Merrylegs, for nothing pleased them so much as getting on him by turns and riding him all about the orchard and the home paddock, and this they would do by the hour together.

One afternoon he had been out with them a long time, and when James brought him in and put on his halter he said,

"There, you rogue, mind how you behave yourself, or we shall get into trouble."

"What have you been doing, Merrylegs?" I asked.

"Oh!" said he, tossing his little head, "I have only been giving those young people a lesson; they did not know when they had had enough, nor when I had had enough, so I just pitched them off backward; that was the only thing they could understand."

"What." said I, "You threw the children off? I thought you did know better than that! Did you throw Miss Jessie or Miss Flora?"

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

Possible Answers:

"What! said I. "You threw the children off?

NO CHANGE

"What!" said I. "You threw the children off?

"What?" said I "you threw the children off?

"What? said I, "You threw the children off?

Correct answer:

"What!" said I. "You threw the children off?

Explanation:

The surprised reaction "what" requires an exclamation point, rather than a period. All of the other answers choices are incorrect due to comma and quotation mark placement errors. Note also, that this is a discretionary question that asks for the BEST answer, a period is not incorrect, but given the context of the passage an exclamation point is a better choice.

Example Question #23 : Period, Exclamation Point, And Question Mark Errors

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

It is my pleasure to introduce Sadie Jones, M.D..

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

Sadie Jones, M.D

Sadie Jones, M.D.

Sadie Jones, M.D,.

Correct answer:

Sadie Jones, M.D.

Explanation:

A period is required at the end of every sentence (unless an exclamation point or question mark is more appropriate); however, when the sentence ends in an abbreviation that utilizes a period, an additional period is not necessary.

Example Question #24 : Period, Exclamation Point, And Question Mark Errors

Passage adapted from Under The Lilacs (1768) by Louisa May Alcott

"Don't they look sweet?" cried Bab, gazing with maternal pride upon the left-hand row of dolls, who might appropriately have sung in chorus, "We are seven."

"Very nice; but my Belinda beats them all. I do think she is the splendidest child that ever was!" And Betty set down the basket to run and embrace the suspended darling, just then kicking up her heels with joyful abandon.

"The cake can be cooling while we fix the children. It does smell perfectly delicious!" said Bab, lifting the napkin to hang over the basket, fondly regarding the little round loaf that lay inside.

"Leave some smell for me," commanded Betty, running back to get her fair share of the spicy fragrance. The pug noses sniffed it up luxuriously, and the bright eyes feasted upon the loveliness of the cake, so brown and shiny, with a tipsy-looking B in pie-crust staggering down one side, instead of sitting properly a-top.

"Ma let me put it on the very last minute, and it baked so hard I couldn't pick it off. We can give Belinda that piece, so it's just as well," observed Betty, taking the lead, as her child was queen of the revel.

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

Possible Answers:

"Leave some smell for me!" commanded Betty

NO CHANGE

"Leave some smell for me." commanded Betty

"Leave some smell for me" commanded Betty

"Leave some smell for me?" commanded Betty

Correct answer:

"Leave some smell for me!" commanded Betty

Explanation:

'"Leave some smell for me!" commanded Betty' is the correct answer. This is because the word "commanded" indicates that Betty is making a forceful declaration, and is not simply making a statement.

Example Question #22 : Period, Exclamation Point, And Question Mark Errors

“John Adams—A Forgotten American Founder”

Sadly, the great exploits of important men and women is often forgotten in the mists of history.  The myths and historical tales of a nation can lead the people to forget some of their most important founders and national heroes.  In the United States of America, this kind of forgetfulness has occurred in the case of the Founding Father, John Adams.  For a number of reasons, President Adams had been forgotten.  Recounting the tales of the nations’ founding, many remember figures like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin.  However, during those early years of the republic, Adams was a pivotal figure in assuring independence to the burgeoning nation.

During the debates concerning the Declaration of Independence, Adams was something of a “chief orator,” tirelessly attempting to convince the gathered parties of the importance of declaring independence from England.  Adams a temperamental and passionate man, was the perfect person to fill such a role.  In contrast to the judicious Franklin and the controlled and quiet Jefferson, he was fit for performing such oratorical shows and bombasts.  Although he joined Jefferson and Franklin on the drafting committee for the declaration, his most important work during this time was arguably this long project of oratory.

In addition, many forget the lonely years Adams spent as a minister to France and as the first minister to England.  What a difficult affair such posts would have been at the time.  As the minister to France, what weight could he have had with the court of such an old European nation?  Furthermore, Adams was not temperamentally suited for French courtly customs being a stern and somewhat moralistic man.  Then, to be sent to England—how difficult that must have been.  As the minister on behalf of a once-rebel nation, how could he stand before the Court of King James?  Nevertheless, Adams served his post nobly and deserves great recognition for this devoted service to his young nation.

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

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

What a difficult affair such posts will have been at the time.

What a difficult affair such posts would have been at the time!

What a difficult affair such posts would have been at the time?

What a difficult affair were such posts have been at the time?

Correct answer:

What a difficult affair such posts would have been at the time!

Explanation:

It does not really match the tone or aims of the passage at this point to convert the underlined sentence into a question. Indeed, the sentence is followed by a question. Since the passage does not use such a rhetorical device (repeating questions in sequence), it is better to avoid introducing it through such a change. Instead, to match the tone, you should make the underlined selection an exclamation. That fits the general tone of the sentence better than a simple declarative statement with a period. 

Example Question #27 : Period, Exclamation Point, And Question Mark Errors

“John Adams—A Forgotten American Founder”

Sadly, the great exploits of important men and women is often forgotten in the mists of history.  The myths and historical tales of a nation can lead the people to forget some of their most important founders and national heroes.  In the United States of America, this kind of forgetfulness has occurred in the case of the Founding Father, John Adams.  For a number of reasons, President Adams had been forgotten.  Recounting the tales of the nations’ founding, many remember figures like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin.  However, during those early years of the republic, Adams was a pivotal figure in assuring independence to the burgeoning nation.

During the debates concerning the Declaration of Independence, Adams was something of a “chief orator,” tirelessly attempting to convince the gathered parties of the importance of declaring independence from England.  Adams a temperamental and passionate man, was the perfect person to fill such a role.  In contrast to the judicious Franklin and the controlled and quiet Jefferson, he was fit for performing such oratorical shows and bombasts.  Although he joined Jefferson and Franklin on the drafting committee for the declaration, his most important work during this time was arguably this long project of oratory.

In addition, many forget the lonely years Adams spent as a minister to France and as the first minister to England.  What a difficult affair such posts would have been at the time.  As the minister to France, what weight could he have had with the court of such an old European nation?  Furthermore, Adams was not temperamentally suited for French courtly customs being a stern and somewhat moralistic man.  Then, to be sent to England—how difficult that must have been.  As the minister on behalf of a once-rebel nation, how could he stand before the Court of King James?  Nevertheless, Adams served his post nobly and deserves great recognition for this devoted service to his young nation.

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

Possible Answers:

Then, to have been sent to England, how difficult that must have been.

NO CHANGE

Then, being sent to England, how difficult that must have been.

Then, to be sent to England, how difficult that must have been.

Then, to be sent to England—how difficult that must have been!

Correct answer:

Then, to be sent to England—how difficult that must have been!

Explanation:

The only independent clause in this sentence is, "How difficult that must have been." By format, this is an exclamation, not a declaration. Therefore, it is best to punctuate it accordingly. This should have an exclamation point, not a period.

Example Question #26 : Period, Exclamation Point, And Question Mark Errors

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

Billy wondered when it would snow again?

Possible Answers:

Billy wondered when it would snow again. 

Billy wondered when it would snow again!

Billy wondered when it would snow again?!

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

Billy wondered when it would snow again. 

Explanation:

This is an indirect question. So, although Billy is asking a question to himself, it is not a direct question, and therefore should end in a period. 

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