SAT Writing : Improving Sentences

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Writing

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Example Questions

Example Question #31 : 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.

The old men were worn out; because it had been a long day for them.

Possible Answers:

The old men were worn out; and it had been a long day for them.

The old men were worn out: because it had been a long day for them.

The old men were worn out; because it had been a long day for them.

The old men were worn out; for it had been a long day for them.

The old men were worn out; it had been a long day for them.

Correct answer:

The old men were worn out; it had been a long day for them.

Explanation:

Semicolons may be used to separate two related, independent clauses; however they must be used alone, and without any accompanying conjunction. The best way to correct the underlined portion above is: "The old men were worn out; it had been a long day for them."

Semicolons can be replaced (grammatically speaking) without error by either a comma and an appropriate coordinating conjunction, or simply with a period, splitting the two clauses into separate sentences. Whichever you choose will depend on the meaning and level of connection between the clauses, and your personal style.

Example Question #41 : 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. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

The Cannibal is a fascinating character; and he's also terrifying.

Possible Answers:

The Cannibal is a fascinating character; but he's also terrifying.

The Cannibal is a fascinating character; though he's also terrifying.

The Cannibal is a fascinating character; and he's also terrifying.

The Cannibal is a fascinating character, he's also terrifying.

The Cannibal is a fascinating character; he's also terrifying.

Correct answer:

The Cannibal is a fascinating character; he's also terrifying.

Explanation:

Semicolons may be used to join  two independent clauses into one compound sentence. They must be used alone, and without any accompanying conjunction. The best way to correct the underlined portion above is: "The Cannibal  is a fascinating character; he's also terrifying."

Example Question #41 : 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. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Our criminal justice system is suffering from a massive lack of oversight; because there simply aren't enough good people paying attention.

Possible Answers:

Our criminal justice system is suffering from a massive lack of oversight; there simply aren't enough good people paying attention.

Our criminal justice system is suffering from a massive lack of oversight; but there simply aren't enough good people paying attention.

Our criminal justice system is suffering from a massive lack of oversight; and there simply aren't enough good people paying attention.

Our criminal justice system is suffering from a massive lack of oversight; while there simply aren't enough good people paying attention.

Our criminal justice system is suffering from a massive lack of oversight; because there simply aren't enough good people paying attention.

Correct answer:

Our criminal justice system is suffering from a massive lack of oversight; there simply aren't enough good people paying attention.

Explanation:

Semicolons may be used to separate two related, independent clauses. Note, however, that semicolons must be used without any accompanying conjunction. The best way to correct the underlined portion above is: "Our criminal justice system is suffering from a massive lack of oversight; there simply aren't enough good people paying attention."

A comma with a coordinating conjunction can fulfill the same function as a semicolon.

Example Question #1381 : 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 have a very long day ahead of me; so I need to rest up and get ready for it.

Possible Answers:

I have a very long day ahead of me; I need to rest up and get ready for it.

I have a very long day ahead of me; and I need to rest up and get ready for it.

I have a very long day ahead of me, I need to rest up and get ready for it.

I have a very long day ahead of me; so I need to rest up and get ready for it.

I have a very long day ahead of me; but I need to rest up and get ready for it.

Correct answer:

I have a very long day ahead of me; I need to rest up and get ready for it.

Explanation:

Semicolons may be used to separate two related, independent clauses, but they must be used without any accompanying conjunction. In the sentence above, the coordinating conjunction "so" incorrectly follows the semicolon. The best way to correct this sentence is to simply delete the coordinating conjunction.

Example Question #41 : 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.

You need to get out of my way; because I have to finish what I started now.

Possible Answers:

You need to get out of my way; because I have to finish what I started now.

You need to get out of my way; and I have to finish what I started now.

You need to get out of my way; so I have to finish what I started now.

You need to get out of my way; I have to finish what I started now.

You need to get out of my way; while I have to finish what I started now.

Correct answer:

You need to get out of my way; I have to finish what I started now.

Explanation:

Semicolons may be used to separate two related, independent clauses; however, they must be used alone, and without any accompanying conjunction. Here, "because" should be deleted because it incorrectly follows the semicolon. The best way to correct the underlined portion above is, "You need to get out of my way; I have to finish what I started now."

Example Question #1381 : 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.

When you leave the campsite; please take all of your garbage with you.

Possible Answers:

When you leave the campsite; please take all of your garbage with you.

When you leave the campsite, please take all of your garbage with you.

When you leave the campsite: please take all of your garbage with you.

When you leave the campsite; then please take all of your garbage with you.

When you leave the campsite, or please take all of your garbage with you.

Correct answer:

When you leave the campsite, please take all of your garbage with you.

Explanation:

Semicolons may be used to separate two related, independent clauses. "When you leave the campsite" could not be a grammatically complete sentence on its own, therefore it is a dependent (in this case introductory) clause, and must be followed by a comma and now a semicolon. The best way to correct the underlined portion above is, "When you leave the campsite, please take all of your garbage with you."

Example Question #41 : 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. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

I like Jack; but he is extremely crude at a variety of inappropriate moments.

Possible Answers:

I like Jack, he is extremely crude at a variety of inappropriate moments.

I like Jack, but he is extremely crude at a variety of inappropriate moments.

I like Jack; but he is extremely crude at a variety of inappropriate moments.

I like Jack... but he is extremely crude at a variety of inappropriate moments.

I like Jack; and he is extremely crude at a variety of inappropriate moments.

Correct answer:

I like Jack, but he is extremely crude at a variety of inappropriate moments.

Explanation:

Semicolons may be used to separate two related, independent clauses; however they must be used alone, and without any accompanying coordinating conjunctions. Here, a semicolon separates two independent clauses, but it incorrectly uses a coordinating conjunction after the semicolon. The best way to correct the underlined portion above is to simply replace the semicolon with a comma.

Example Question #41 : 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. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

When it rains; it behooves one to have a raincoat.

Possible Answers:

When it rains, it behooves one to have a raincoat.

When it rains, and it behooves one to have a raincoat.

When it rains; and it behooves one to have a raincoat.

When it rains, but it behooves one to have a raincoat.

When it rains; it behooves one to have a raincoat.

Correct answer:

When it rains, it behooves one to have a raincoat.

Explanation:

Semicolons may be used to separate two related, independent clauses. It is, however, incorrect to use a semicolon to separate a dependent clause from a main clause. In the sentence above, the semicolon is inappropriate because it is not separating two independent clauses. "When it rains" is acting, in this case, as a dependent introductory clause. The best way to correct the underlined portion above is, "When it rains, it behooves one to have a raincoat."

Example Question #1382 : 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 find it very difficult to walk early in the morning; while I often have a lot of pain in my joints.

Possible Answers:

I find it very difficult to walk early in the morning; I often have a lot of pain in my joints.

I find it very difficult to walk early in the morning; while I often have a lot of pain in my joints.

I find it very difficult to walk early in the morning; because I often have a lot of pain in my joints.

I find it very difficult to walk early in the morning; during it I often have a lot of pain in my joints.

I find it very difficult to walk early in the morning; and I often have a lot of pain in my joints.

Correct answer:

I find it very difficult to walk early in the morning; I often have a lot of pain in my joints.

Explanation:

Semicolons may be used to separate two related, independent clauses. The subordinate conjunction "while" should signal a dependent clause, and it should be deleted from this sentence. The corrected version of this sentence reads, "I find it very difficult to walk early in the morning; I often have a lot of pain in my joints."

Note that a coordinating conjunction should never follow a semicolon.

Example Question #44 : 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 find it hard to believe that he left the room when he says he did; but I suppose we have no choice.

Possible Answers:

I find it hard to believe that he left the room when he says he did, I suppose we have no choice.

I find it hard to believe that he left the room when he says he did; or I suppose we have no choice.

I find it hard to believe that he left the room when he says he did; but I suppose we have no choice.

I find it hard to believe that he left the room when he says he did; I suppose we have no choice.

I find it hard to believe that he left the room when he says he did; and I suppose we have no choice.

Correct answer:

I find it hard to believe that he left the room when he says he did; I suppose we have no choice.

Explanation:

Semicolons may be used to separate two related, independent clauses. Note, however, that they must be used alone, and without any accompanying conjunction. The best way to correct the underlined portion above is, "I find it hard to believe that he left the room when he says he did; I suppose we have no choice." The unnecessary coordinating conjunction should be deleted.

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