SAT Writing : Improving Sentences

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Writing

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store varsity tutors amazon store varsity tutors ibooks store

Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Correcting Punctuation Errors: Other Punctuation

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

He worked at the factory for thirty years; but he never once got a promotion.

Possible Answers:

He worked at the factory for thirty years; but he never once got a promotion.

He worked at the factory for thirty years or he never once got a promotion.

He worked at the factory for thirty years he never once got a promotion.

He worked at the factory for thirty years; and he never once got a promotion.

He worked at the factory for thirty years, but he never once got a promotion.

Correct answer:

He worked at the factory for thirty years, but he never once got a promotion.

Explanation:

The sentence is written as a compound sentence, one that joins two independent clauses together to show their relationship. A compound sentence can only be joined by either a semicolon or a comma followed by a conjunction, but never a semicolon and a conjunction as in the sentence above. Therefore, the correct answer choice is "He worked at the factory for thirty years, but he never once got a promotion."

Example Question #61 : Correcting Grammatical Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

In the end it became clear, that Jennifer had never liked camping; she only went along on the trips to placate her friends.

Possible Answers:

In the end, it became clear that Jennifer had never liked camping; she only went along on the trips to placate her friends.

In the end it became clear, that Jennifer had never liked camping; she only went along on the trips to placate her friends.

In the end, it became clear that Jennifer had never liked camping, she only went along on the trips to placate her friends.

In the end it became clear that Jennifer had never liked camping, she only went along on the trips to placate her friends.

In the end it became clear that Jennifer had never liked camping; she only went along on the trips to placate her friends.

Correct answer:

In the end, it became clear that Jennifer had never liked camping; she only went along on the trips to placate her friends.

Explanation:

Here, “In the end” is an introductory phrase, so it must be followed by a comma. Because “In the end, it became clear that Jennifer had never liked camping” and “she only went along on the trips to placate her friends” are both independent clauses (in other words, they can stand as complete sentences on their own), they must be separated by a semicolon. Using a comma between the two independent clauses would result in a comma splice, which is grammatically incorrect.

Example Question #11 : Correcting Punctuation Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

You’ve never been a fan of roses, which are many people’s favorite flowers, the flowers seem too fancy for your simple tastes.

Possible Answers:

You’ve never been a fan of roses which are many people’s favorite flowers; the flowers seem too fancy for your simple tastes.

You’ve never been a fan of roses, which are many people’s favorite flowers; the flowers seem too fancy for your simple tastes.

You’ve never been a fan of roses, which are many people’s favorite flowers; the flowers seem too fancy, for your simple tastes.

You’ve never been a fan of roses, which are many people’s favorite flowers, the flowers seem too fancy for your simple tastes.

You’ve never been a fan of roses which are many people’s favorite flowers, the flowers seem too fancy for your simple tastes.

Correct answer:

You’ve never been a fan of roses, which are many people’s favorite flowers; the flowers seem too fancy for your simple tastes.

Explanation:

There are two independent clauses in this sentence—“You’ve never been a fan of roses, which are many people’s favorite flowers” and “the flowers seem too fancy for your simple tastes." They must be separated by a semicolon. Using a comma between the two independent clauses would result in a comma splice, which is a grammatical error.

The words “which are many people’s favorite” are a relative clause that modify “roses,” and since that clause can be removed and still leave a complete sentence (it’s non-essential information, in other words), it must be set off from the rest of the sentence by a comma.

Example Question #1 : Correcting Punctuation Errors: Other Punctuation

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Carrie and her cat, Mittens; were having a relaxing afternoon, Mittens was basking in a sunbeam near Carrie's feet.

Possible Answers:

Carrie and her cat, Mittens, were having a relaxing afternoon. Mittens was basking in a sunbeam; near Carrie's feet.

Carrie and her cat, Mittens; were having a relaxing afternoon, Mittens was basking in a sunbeam near Carrie's feet.

Carrie and her cat, Mittens, were having a relaxing afternoon; Mittens was basking in a sunbeam near Carrie's feet.

Carrie and her cat, Mittens, were having a relaxing afternoon. Mittens was basking; in a sunbeam near Carrie's feet.

Carrie and her cat; Mittens, were having a relaxing afternoon. Mittens was basking in a sunbeam near Carrie's feet.

Correct answer:

Carrie and her cat, Mittens, were having a relaxing afternoon; Mittens was basking in a sunbeam near Carrie's feet.

Explanation:

The correct use of a semicolon is connecting two related independent clauses. If a part of a sentence can't stand alone as a sentence, it can't be connected to another part of the sentence with a semicolon. In this case, the correct form is "Carrie and her cat, Mittens, were having a relaxing afternoon; Mittens was basking in a sunbeam near Carrie's feet," which connects the two related sentences with a semicolon.

Example Question #1351 : Sat Writing

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a champion of the Civil Rights Movement, he stood for freedom and equality.

Possible Answers:

champion of the Civil Rights Movement: he stood for freedom and equality.

champion of the Civil Rights Movement, he stood for freedom; and equality.

champion; of the Civil Rights Movement, he stood for freedom and equality.

champion of the Civil Rights Movement, he stood for freedom and equality.

champion of the Civil Rights Movement; he stood for freedom and equality.

Correct answer:

champion of the Civil Rights Movement; he stood for freedom and equality.

Explanation:

A semicolon connects two independent clauses, or clauses that can stand on their own. "Dr. Martin Luther Kind Jr. was a champion of the Civil Rights Movement" and "he stood for freedom and equality" are both independent clauses (featuring self-contained subject-verb structures), so "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a champion of the Civil Rights Movement; he stood for freedom and equality." is the correct answer.

Example Question #11 : Correcting Semicolon Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

When Harold went to the dentist, he was given two instructions; to brush his teeth twice daily and to avoid acidic beverages.

Possible Answers:

When Harold went to the dentist, he was given two instructions; to brush his teeth twice daily; and to avoid acidic beverages.

When Harold went to the dentist, he was given two instructions: to brush his teeth twice daily and to avoid acidic beverages.

When Harold went to the dentist, he was given two instructions; to brush his teeth twice daily and to avoid acidic beverages.

When Harold went to the dentist: he was given two instructions to brush his teeth twice daily and to avoid acidic beverages.

When Harold went to the dentist; he was given two instructions, to brush his teeth twice daily and to avoid acidic beverages.

Correct answer:

When Harold went to the dentist, he was given two instructions: to brush his teeth twice daily and to avoid acidic beverages.

Explanation:

A semicolon is used to combine two independent clauses. Because the phrase "to brush his teeth twice daily and to avoid acidic beverages" is a list and a dependent clause, the appropriate punctuation is a colon. This makes the correct answer "When Harold went to the dentist, he was given two instructions: to brush his teeth twice daily and to avoid acidic beverages." 

Example Question #1352 : Sat Writing

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

I like to go out in nature it's more peaceful there than it is in the city.

Possible Answers:

I like to go out, in nature its more peaceful there than it is in the city.

I like to go out in nature it's more peaceful there than it is in the city.

I like to go out in nature; it's more peaceful there than it is in the city.

I like to go out in nature and it's more peaceful there than it is in the city.

I like to go out in nature, it's more peaceful, than it is in the city.

Correct answer:

I like to go out in nature; it's more peaceful there than it is in the city.

Explanation:

There needs to be a separation between the two independent clauses in the example sentence. One such potential separation is to put a semicolon between them. Therefore, the best correction of the underlined portion is "I like to go out in nature; it's more peaceful there than it is in the city."

Example Question #1351 : Sat Writing

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence. 

Ross was confident that he would win the school election for class president; he was disappointed to find out that he finished hundreds of votes shy.

Possible Answers:

Ross was confident that he would win the school election for class president, he was disappointed to find out that he finished hundreds of votes shy.

Ross was confident that he will win the school election for class president: he was disappointed to find out that he finished hundreds of votes shy.

Ross was confident that he would win the school election for class president; he was disappointed to find out that he finished hundreds of votes shy.

Ross was confident that he would win the school election for class president; so he was disappointed to find out that he finished hundreds of votes shy.

Ross was confident that he will win the school election for class president, he was disappointed to find out that he finished hundreds of votes shy.

Correct answer:

Ross was confident that he would win the school election for class president; he was disappointed to find out that he finished hundreds of votes shy.

Explanation:

A semicolon is used to separate two independent clauses. Each of these two clauses is independent, as each can stand on its own as a complete sentence. The use of a semicolon, therefore, is perfectly appropriate. Using a comma instead would be a comma splice. The correct option was the one which re-produced the example sentence.

Example Question #11 : Improving Sentences

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

It seemed as though all the training in the world couldn't help Bridget, she was simply too uncoordinated to learn ballet.

Possible Answers:

It seemed as though all the training in the world couldn't help Bridget, as she was simply too uncoordinated to learn ballet.

It seemed as though all the training in the world couldn't help Bridget; she was simply too uncoordinated to learn ballet.

It seemed as though all the training in the world couldn't help Bridget she was simply too uncoordinated to learn ballet.

It seemed as though all the training in the world: couldn't help Bridget she was simply too uncoordinated to learn ballet.

It seemed as though all the training in the world couldn't help Bridget and she was simply too uncoordinated to learn ballet.

Correct answer:

It seemed as though all the training in the world couldn't help Bridget; she was simply too uncoordinated to learn ballet.

Explanation:

A semicolon is used to separate two independent clauses. If this separation is done with a comma, as in the original sentence, it is a comma splice. Because each of the two clauses on either side of the punctuation are independent and each could stand on its own as a complete sentence, a semicolon is appropriate punctuation. A period would also be grammatically correct, but in this case a semicolon is used to illustrate that the clauses are directly related to one another, the second clause helps to explain the first.

Example Question #11 : Improving Sentences

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

I like to go out; and play in the sunshine as often as I can.

Possible Answers:

I like to go out, and play in the sunshine as often, as I can.

I like to go out; and play in the sunshine as often as I can.

I like to go out; and play in the sunshine; as often as I can.

I like to go out and play in the sunshine as often as I can.

I like to go out. And play in the sunshine as often as I can.

Correct answer:

I like to go out and play in the sunshine as often as I can.

Explanation:

In the sentence as written, the semicolon is unnecessary. You are permitted to use a semicolon when there are two independent clauses being joined together. "Play in the sunshine" is not, however, an independent clause, therefore it is incorrect to use a semicolon.  

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors