ACT English : Punctuation Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Correcting Grammatical Errors

Adapted from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1784)

At the time I established myself in Pennsylvania there was not a good booksellers shop in any of the colonies to the southward of Boston. In New York and Philadelphia the printers were indeed stationers; they sold only paper, etc., almanacs, ballads, and a few common school-books. Those who loved reading were obliged to send for their books from England; the members of the Junto had each a few. We had left the ale-house, where we first met, and hired a room to hold our club in. I proposed that we should all of us bring our books to that room, where they would not only be ready to consult in our conferences but become a common benefit, each of us being at liberty to borrow such as he wished to read at home. This was accordingly done, and for some time contented us.

Finding the advantage of this little collection, I proposed to render the benefit from books more common by commencing a public subscription library. I drew a sketch of the plan and rules that would be necessary, and got a skillful conveyancer, Mr. Charles Brockden, to put the whole in form of articles of agreement, to be subscribed, by which each subscriber engaged to pay a certain sum down for the first purchase of books, and an annual contribution for increasing them. So few were the readers at that time in Philadelphia, and the majority of us so poor, that I was not able, with great industry to find more than fifty persons, mostly young tradesmen, willing to pay down for this purpose forty shillings each, and ten shillings per annum. On this little fund we began. The books were imported; the library was opened one day in the week for lending to the subscribers, on their promissory notes to pay double the value if not duly returned. The institution soon manifested its utility, was imitated by other towns and in other provinces. The libraries were augmented by donations; reading became fashionable; and our people, having no public amusements to divert their attention from study, became better acquainted with books, and in a few years were observed by strangers to be better instructed and more intelligent than people of the same rank generally are in other countries.

Which is the best form of the underlined section?

Possible Answers:

Pennsylvania: there

Pennsylvania; there

Pennsylvania, there

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

Pennsylvania, there

Explanation:

The phrase that ends in "Pennsylvania" would be considered by a contemporary reader as an introductory phrase, and thus a comma should follow it.

Example Question #1 : Punctuation Errors

Adapted from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1784)

At the time I established myself in Pennsylvania there was not a good booksellers shop in any of the colonies to the southward of Boston. In New York and Philadelphia the printers were indeed stationers; they sold only paper, etc., almanacs, ballads, and a few common school-books. Those who loved reading were obliged to send for their books from England; the members of the Junto had each a few. We had left the ale-house, where we first met, and hired a room to hold our club in. I proposed that we should all of us bring our books to that room, where they would not only be ready to consult in our conferences but become a common benefit, each of us being at liberty to borrow such as he wished to read at home. This was accordingly done, and for some time contented us.

Finding the advantage of this little collection, I proposed to render the benefit from books more common by commencing a public subscription library. I drew a sketch of the plan and rules that would be necessary, and got a skillful conveyancer, Mr. Charles Brockden, to put the whole in form of articles of agreement, to be subscribed, by which each subscriber engaged to pay a certain sum down for the first purchase of books, and an annual contribution for increasing them. So few were the readers at that time in Philadelphia, and the majority of us so poor, that I was not able, with great industry to find more than fifty persons, mostly young tradesmen, willing to pay down for this purpose forty shillings each, and ten shillings per annum. On this little fund we began. The books were imported; the library was opened one day in the week for lending to the subscribers, on their promissory notes to pay double the value if not duly returned. The institution soon manifested its utility, was imitated by other towns and in other provinces. The libraries were augmented by donations; reading became fashionable; and our people, having no public amusements to divert their attention from study, became better acquainted with books, and in a few years were observed by strangers to be better instructed and more intelligent than people of the same rank generally are in other countries.

Which is the best form of the underlined section?

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

conferences, but

conferences: but

conferences; but

Correct answer:

NO CHANGE

Explanation:

Although "but" is being used as a contraction here, it is not followed by a complete sentence and thus would not need to be preceded by a comma.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Grammatical Errors

Jimmy is annoyed at the video game that he was playing. For one thing, there was not nearly enough interesting characters suspenseful moments or exciting escapes in the game to satisfy him. For another, it was incredibly hard while playing the game to control the cars. It always wanted to veer to the left when he tried to steer to the right. But the ending of the game was worst. By the time he got to the end,  the hero had decided to stop chasing rogue spies and therefore marry his girlfriend, a surprise attack resulted in her being kidnapped, and the hero must go on a final mission to save her before the game can be completed. That would of been fine, except it involved tracking the enemy using a helicopter, and Jimmy much to his chagrin never mastered flying the helicopter.

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:

interesting characters, suspenseful moments, or exciting escapes,

NO CHANGE

interesting characters, suspenseful moments, or exciting escapes

interesting characters suspenseful moments plot twists, or exciting escapes

Correct answer:

interesting characters, suspenseful moments, or exciting escapes

Explanation:

Commas are needed to separate each of the items in a list. While some outmoded grammar guides suggest omitting the comma before "and" or "or" in a series of three objects, the more common practice is to include it, so the phrase should read "suspenseful moments, plot twists, or exciting escapes." This particular comma is called the Oxford comma, and is used to avoid ambiguity in certain sentences.

Example Question #2 : Punctuation Errors

Jimmy is annoyed at the video game that he was playing. For one thing, there was not nearly enough suspenseful moments plot twists or exciting escapes in the game to satisfy him. For another, it was incredibly hard while playing the game to control the cars. It always wanted to veer to the left when he tried to steer to the right. But the ending of the game was worst. By the time he got to the end, the hero had decided to stop chasing rogue spies and therefore marry his girlfriend, a surprise attack resulted in her being kidnapped, and the hero must go on a final mission to save her before the game can be completed. That would of been fine, except it involved tracking the enemy using a helicopter, and Jimmy much to his chagrin never mastered flying the helicopter.

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:

Jimmy, much to his chagrin, never mastered

NO CHANGE

Jimmy, much to his chagrin never mastered

Jimmy much to his chagrin, never mastered

Correct answer:

Jimmy, much to his chagrin, never mastered

Explanation:

The phrase "much to his chagrin" is extra information in the sentence and can be taken out without affecting the sentence's meaning, so it should be set off by commas.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Grammatical Errors

Adapted from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1784)

At the time I established myself in Pennsylvania there was not a good booksellers shop in any of the colonies to the southward of Boston. In New York and Philadelphia the printers were indeed stationers; they sold only paper, etc., almanacs, ballads, and a few common school-books. Those who loved reading were obliged to send for their books from England; the members of the Junto had each a few. We had left the ale-house, where we first met, and hired a room to hold our club in. I proposed that we should all of us bring our books to that room, where they would not only be ready to consult in our conferences but become a common benefit, each of us being at liberty to borrow such as he wished to read at home. This was accordingly done, and for some time contented us.

Finding the advantage of this little collection, I proposed to render the benefit from books more common by commencing a public subscription library. I drew a sketch of the plan and rules that would be necessary, and got a skillful conveyancer, Mr. Charles Brockden, to put the whole in form of articles of agreement, to be subscribed, by which each subscriber engaged to pay a certain sum down for the first purchase of books, and an annual contribution for increasing them. So few were the readers at that time in Philadelphia, and the majority of us so poor, that I was not able, with great industry to find more than fifty persons, mostly young tradesmen, willing to pay down for this purpose forty shillings each, and ten shillings per annum. On this little fund we began. The books were imported; the library was opened one day in the week for lending to the subscribers, on their promissory notes to pay double the value if not duly returned. The institution soon manifested its utility, was imitated by other towns and in other provinces. The libraries were augmented by donations; reading became fashionable; and our people, having no public amusements to divert their attention from study, became better acquainted with books, and in a few years were observed by strangers to be better instructed and more intelligent than people of the same rank generally are in other countries.

Which is the best form of the underlined section?

Possible Answers:

able, or with

able with

able; with

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

able with

Explanation:

There would be no need for a comma in this context since Franklin is using "with great industry" as an adjectival clause to describe his inability to find subscribers for the library.

Example Question #3 : Punctuation Errors

Adapted from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1784)

At the time I established myself in Pennsylvania there was not a good booksellers shop in any of the colonies to the southward of Boston. In New York and Philadelphia the printers were indeed stationers; they sold only paper, etc., almanacs, ballads, and a few common school-books. Those who loved reading were obliged to send for their books from England; the members of the Junto had each a few. We had left the ale-house, where we first met, and hired a room to hold our club in. I proposed that we should all of us bring our books to that room, where they would not only be ready to consult in our conferences but become a common benefit, each of us being at liberty to borrow such as he wished to read at home. This was accordingly done, and for some time contented us.

Finding the advantage of this little collection, I proposed to render the benefit from books more common by commencing a public subscription library. I drew a sketch of the plan and rules that would be necessary, and got a skillful conveyancer, Mr. Charles Brockden, to put the whole in form of articles of agreement, to be subscribed, by which each subscriber engaged to pay a certain sum down for the first purchase of books, and an annual contribution for increasing them. So few were the readers at that time in Philadelphia, and the majority of us so poor, that I was not able, with great industry to find more than fifty persons, mostly young tradesmen, willing to pay down for this purpose forty shillings each, and ten shillings per annum. On this little fund we began. The books were imported; the library was opened one day in the week for lending to the subscribers, on their promissory notes to pay double the value if not duly returned. The institution soon manifested its utility, was imitated by other towns and in other provinces. The libraries were augmented by donations; reading became fashionable; and our people, having no public amusements to divert their attention from study, became better acquainted with books, and in a few years were observed by strangers to be better instructed and more intelligent than people of the same rank generally are in other countries.

Which is the best form of the underlined section?

Possible Answers:

bookseller's shop

book sellers shop

booksellers' shop

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

bookseller's shop

Explanation:

The word "bookseller" is singular, so an apostrophe and an "s" should be used to show possession instead of just an "s," which indicates the plural form.

Example Question #1 : Semicolon Errors

The world is full of contradictions and I am full of them as well.  Every person has their quirks and I am no exception.  I love sports but I am also lazy I love animals, but I am not a vegetarian and I love teaching but I hate taking classes.  With all these contradictions how does a person like me make sense?  I would love to enlighten you!

How should the author punctuate the underlined portion to make it a proper sentence?

Possible Answers:

I love sports, but I am also lazy; I love animals, but I am not a vegetarian; and I love teaching, but I hate taking classes.  

DELETE the underlined portion

NO CHANGE

I love sports, I am also lazy, and I love teaching.  

I love sports, but I am also lazy, I love animals, but I am not a vegetarian, and I love teaching, but I hate taking classes.  

Correct answer:

I love sports, but I am also lazy; I love animals, but I am not a vegetarian; and I love teaching, but I hate taking classes.  

Explanation:

When a sentence consists of smaller sentences combined into a longer one, if those smaller sentences already contain commas (such as the commas necessary between the conjunctions in the smaller sentences), they can be separated by semi colons to help keep the sentences cohesive.

Example Question #1 : Semicolon Errors

It was about halfway through his last set of conferences that Mr. Man realizes (1) he did not (2) much like his current set of students.  Unlike his students in the past, none of them seemed to care about their (3) grades, (4) none of them was able to tell a dangling modifier from a participle, (4) and, apart from a few, (4) they didn't know (5) how to start a paper.  He would never tell any of them this, of course, (6) they might get offended, and if there was one thing that Mr. Man learned (7) about teaching, its (8) that in order to keep one's job, you couldn't offend your students (9).  As yet another student whined about not understanding Mr. Mans (10) perfectly clearly written assignments, he sighed inwardly (and possibly outwardly as well), (11) and waited for the last (12) one to finish so that he could get to the next one, finish his conferences, and get back to daydreaming about being anything but a teacher.

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:

course:

course; 

NO CHANGE

course

Correct answer:

course; 

Explanation:

Since the two sentences are so closely related to each other in theme, the semicolon is most appropriate here.

Example Question #2 : Semicolon Errors

In today's society, (1) they have a popular TV series that (2) follows the life of 4-5 (3) young teenage girls who are trying to raise their child while being a teenager at the same time (4). The television series shows hardships, but they (5) focus more on the relationships of these girls rather than how much their baby’s diaper is changed or how often the baby spits up all over them. They always have a happy ending, giving teen girls these days hope that it (6) will do the same for them. The show focuses of (7) a different group of teen moms each season, but all being held back by having a child at a young age. Some are alone, some have significant others, and some even decided to give (8) their baby up for adoption, but not one of their lives are perfect nor easy (9). Some teenagers enjoy watching the show just to watch the babies grow, but others watch it because they think it’s popular, they think it will make them popular as well (10). The show is based upon these girl’s (11) lives and it doesn’t always seem to have to do with their children it has to do with them being teenagers (12).

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:

their children it has to do with them, being teenagers

their children; it has to do with them being teenagers

their children, it has to do with them being teenagers

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

their children; it has to do with them being teenagers

Explanation:

To avoid a comma splice or run-on sentence, the only option here for separating the two sentences is to join them with a semicolon since they are directly related to each other.

Example Question #3 : Punctuation Errors

The student the hand of whom was up (1) gave the wrong answer. She was asked what was a substantive adjective (2), and she answered that a substantive adjective is one that describe (3) a substance. "No!" (4) the teacher barked. "A substantive adjective takes the place of a noun in a sentence, as when someone talks about the rich and the poor (5). Did you learn nothing in this class?" He then asked what a superlative adjective was, to which she replied (6) that a superlative adjective was one that took the place of a noun in a sentence. "But thats (7) what I just said," the teacher screamed! (8) The student had said (9) that she had heard him, therefore (10) she answered his question. "You answered my question previously, (11)" he bellowed, "not the last one!" "Ah, you mean the latest one," the student replied, the moment at which (12) the teacher turned to the wall and started beating his head against it.

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:

him; therefore

him therefore

him: therefore

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

him; therefore

Explanation:

"Therefore" is working here as a conjunctive adverb and not a conjunction, so the use of a comma is not appropriate. The semicolon should be used instead since this is actually two sentences, not one.

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