PSAT Writing : Identifying Sentence Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Commas For Dependent Clauses

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Although he initially refused to go to the cinema, James finally saw the movie, that his friends had recommendedNo error

Possible Answers:

Although he

refused to go to the cinema

No error

movie, that

had recommended

Correct answer:

movie, that

Explanation:

Commas, gramatically speaking, should never be used before or after the word "that." The correct sentence would have: "James finally saw the movie that his friends . . ."

"Had recommended" could be changed to "recommended", for the sake of simplicity, but the comma error is more flagrant.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Other Commas

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

In the interest of advancing her career, Ollie decided to stop going out on the weekends, and spend more time in the office. No error.

Possible Answers:

weekends, and

decided

more time

No error.

advancing her career

Correct answer:

weekends, and

Explanation:

This sentence has a comma before the last phrase, but that phrase does not have its own subject. A comma here is therefore not necessary. The corrected sentence reads, "In the interest of advancing her career, Ollie decided to stop going out on the weekends and spend more time in the office."

Example Question #2 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Other Commas

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

The trouble with taffy, is that it requires huge quantities of sugar. No error.

Possible Answers:

taffy, is

No error.

it

huge quantities

trouble with

Correct answer:

taffy, is

Explanation:

This sentence has an unnecessary comma separating the subject and predicate of the sentence. This should only happen if there is an interrupting phrase, and there isn't one in this sentence. The corrected sentence reads, "The trouble with taffy is that it requires huge quantities of sugar."

Example Question #3 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Other Commas

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

Forgetting the key part of the instructions, Charlie preheated the oven, but did not prepare the cake. No error

Possible Answers:

instructions, Charlie

did not prepare

oven, but

No error

key

Correct answer:

oven, but

Explanation:

This sentence has an unnecessary comma. Use commas to separate compound sentences, but not compound predicates like we have here. The corrected sentence reads, "Forgetting the key part of the instructions, Charlie preheated the oven but did not prepare the cake."

Example Question #4 : Identifying Punctuation Errors: Other Commas

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

The man who usually sits on the park bench every afternoon, was not there last Tuesday. No error

Possible Answers:

last Tuesday

on the park bench

No error

who

afternoon, was

Correct answer:

afternoon, was

Explanation:

This sentence has a problem with commas. The comma between “afternoon” and “was” is not necessary because it is not setting off a nonrestrictive clause. It creates an awkward pause in the middle of the sentence. The corrected sentence reads, "The man who usually sits on the park bench every afternoon was not there last Tuesday."

Example Question #11 : Grammar: Modifiers And Sentence Construction

The Sagrada Familia has stood, incomplete, as part of the Barcelona skyline since the early phases of its construction in 1882. The project, originally intended to be a cathedral in the gothic style, was begun by the bookseller Joseph Maria Bocabella under the direction of the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. Del Villar and Bocabella imagined a basilica modeled on the Gothic revival churches Bocabella had seen on trips to Italy. However, Bocabella’s ideal basilica never came to be. In 1883 del Villar resigned from the project, and 30-year old Antoni Gaudi, 1 he was a young but already well-known architect from Catalonia, took over as lead architect.

Possible Answers:

Gaudi was

NO CHANGE

his being

DELETE the underlined portion.

Correct answer:

DELETE the underlined portion.

Explanation:

Whenever you are asked to join two thoughts with a comma, you should make sure that the sentence that is created is both not a run-on and a complete sentence. In this case, your hint should be the second comma after "Catalonia" later in the sentence. The portion directly after the first comma is meant to be a piece of additional information bracketed within commas. It therefore shouldn't have a verb, since having a verb would create a run-on sentence. That should allow you to eliminate all choices except for "DELETE the underlined portion."

Example Question #12 : Grammar: Modifiers And Sentence Construction

The Sagrada Familia has stood, incomplete, as part of the Barcelona skyline since the early phases of its construction in 1882. The project, originally intended to be a cathedral in the gothic style, was begun by the bookseller Joseph Maria Bocabella under the direction of the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. Del Villar and Bocabella imagined a basilica modeled on the Gothic revival churches Bocabella had seen on trips to Italy. However, Bocabella’s ideal basilica never came to be. In 1883 del Villar resigned from the project, and 30-year old Antoni Gaudi, a young but already well known architect from Catalonia, took over as lead architect.

Gaudi decided to depart from del Villar’s original Gothic design in favor of a more modern design. The new design was 1 ambitious, and featuring eighteen tall spires and four different facades on different sides of the basilica. But work on the new building was slow. Decades passed, and the work was still incomplete. In 1915, Gaudi - now 63 years old - abandoned all other work in favor of dedicating himself to the completion of the monumental church, but progress on the building was still slow. When pressured to speed up work on the monumental building, Gaudi was said to have replied, “My client is not in a hurry.”  By the time Gaudi died in 1926, the basilica was only somewhere between 15 and 20 percent complete.

Possible Answers:

ambitious; featuring

NO CHANGE

ambitious, it featured

ambitious, featuring

Correct answer:

ambitious, featuring

Explanation:

This sentence presents you with two major decision points: between the comma and semicolon and between "and featuring" and "featuring". Check the difference between the comma and semicolon first. Remember that a comma cannot be used to link two complete sentences without a conjunction and that a semicolon can only be used to link two complete sentences. "ambitious; featuring"  can be eliminated since what follows the semicolon is not a complete sentence, and "ambitious, it featured" can be eliminated because there is a complete sentence on either side of the comma without a conjunction. Since the sentence is not a list and what follows after the comma isn't a complete sentence, "and featuring" does not make sense. "ambitious, featuring" turns the second part of the sentence into an appositive, allowing you to use the comma.

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