SAT Writing : Identifying Word Usage Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Identifying Sentence Errors

Harold had always found the specialized jargon of artisanal coffee shops being confusing and intimidating. 

Possible Answers:

had always found

being

and

jargon of

No error

Correct answer:

being

Explanation:

This sentence does not use the correct form of the verb that follows “found.” The corrected sentence reads: Harold had always found the specialized jargon of artisanal coffee shops to be confusing and intimidating.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Sentence Errors

His family grew up eating a steady diet of meat and potatoes, and now they are being reluctant to try new foods like enchiladas and kale chips.

Possible Answers:

No error

steady diet

like enchiladas and kale chips

to try

are being

Correct answer:

are being

Explanation:

This sentence uses a clunky progressive tense when it is not needed. The corrected sentence reads: His family grew up eating a steady diet of meat and potatoes, and now they are reluctant to try new foods like enchiladas and kale chips.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Word Usage Errors


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

The new budget was not determined entirely by the Board of Directors, but they certainly had a lot of influence. No error

Possible Answers:

was not determined

had

they

by

No error

Correct answer:

they

Explanation:

The correct answer is "they."

This is a case of subject-pronoun disagreement. Although the subject in the first clause is "the budget," the subject becomes "the Board of Directors" in the second clause. Therefore, the pronoun must be replacing that subject, and the subject is singular ("the Board of Directors"), while "they" is plural, so it is a definite error. While there are several people, at least more than one, in a Board of Directors, the subject is not the directors, it is the entity itself— the Board. There is only one Board.

Though "was not decided" is in the passive voice, it is not grammatically wrong, just weaker writing. "By" is the correct usage, "and had"  is a verb-verb agreement, both are in past tense.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Word Usage Errors

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

Lauren sulked all during school because she felt "left out," but the conversation was between Jenny and I, and I had every right to keep it that wayNo error

Possible Answers:

keep it that way

"left out,"

all during

No error

between Jenny and I

Correct answer:

between Jenny and I

Explanation:

"Between Jenny and I" is incorrect. In this case, the sentence should say, "Lauren sulked all during school because she felt 'left out,' but the conversation was between Jenny and me, and I had every right to keep it that way." This sentence has a pronoun case error. Since Jenny and the speaker are objects (grammatically) within the sentence, the objective case pronoun ("me") is required, instead of the subjective case pronoun ("I"). In order to better understand these situations, when the phrase includes a noun and a pronoun simply remove the noun before the pronoun, for example, remove "Jenny and." Once you do that, you will much more easily identify the correct pronoun.

Another example: "Dad bought Roger and I a bicycle." As opposed to: "Dad bought (Roger and) I a bicycle." One would not say: "Dad bought I a bicycle."

Example Question #1 : Identifying Sentence Errors

Members of the blue team travel around the city collecting buttons, and it will not be able to communicate with the red team at any time.

Possible Answers:

it

No error

collecting buttons

at any time

will not be able to

Correct answer:

it

Explanation:

In this sentence, the pronoun “it” does not match in number with its antecedent “Members.” The corrected sentence reads: Members of the blue team travel around the city collecting buttons, and they will not be able to communicate with the red team at any time.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Sentence Errors

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

Susan's term paper was definitely the most thorough researched work she had done all year, but she was still worried that the teacher wouldn't like itNo error

Possible Answers:

it

was

most thorough

she'd done

No error

Correct answer:

most thorough

Explanation:

The error here is "most thorough." Since "thorough" is followed by a verb it is an adverb, and thus must become "thoroughly." The correct way to write this would be "the most thoroughly researched." Adding the "-ly" to an adjective usually makes it an adverb, and every time and adjective is describing another adjective or a verb it must become an adverb. The "it" at the end is the correct pronoun, as "it" is referring to the paper.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Word Usage Errors

The lights were dimmed slow, and the crowd gasped when the blue glow of the painted letters became apparent.

Possible Answers:

slow

No error

were dimmed

gasped

became apparent

Correct answer:

slow

Explanation:

This sentence uses the adjective “slow” to describe a the verb “were dimmed.” An adverb would be better. The corrected sentence reads: The lights were dimmed slowly, and the crowd gasped when the blue glow of the painted letters became apparent.

Example Question #11 : Identifying Sentence Errors

The sharp beak and beady eyes of a common farm chicken can be terrifying to those who have never seen this animal previous.

Possible Answers:

sharp beak and beady eyes

No error

can be terrifying

previous

who

Correct answer:

previous

Explanation:

This sentence uses the adjective “previous” to describe the verb “seen.” An adverb would be better. The corrected sentence reads: The sharp beak and beady eyes of a common farm chicken can be terrifying to those who have never seen this animal previously.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Word Usage Errors

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

The comprehensive chemistry exam consists in four parts in which students must correctly identify the element or compound. No error

Possible Answers:

in which

No error

correctly identify

in

comprehensive 

Correct answer:

in

Explanation:

The correct preposition to use with the verb “to consist” is “of.” For example, “The Constitution consists of many sections.”

Example Question #7 : Identifying Word Usage Errors

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

While his parents were at work, Michael skipped school and decided to take the train for the city, where he met his older brother Jimmy and some of Jimmy's friends. No error

Possible Answers:

where

for

No error

and some of Jimmy's

While his parents

Correct answer:

for

Explanation:

"For" is a preposition error, as well as an idiom error. An idiomatic error is a grammatical error, but one that no longer has any logical explanation; it is simply the way we speak, or write in English. The correct preposition to substitute for would be "to." We take trains "to" cities, not "for" them. An idiosyncrasy is something unique or odd to a person that has no explanation. An idiopathic symptom, or illness, medically, is a condition with an unknown cause.

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