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 #22 : Colon Errors

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

The company has several popular shampoo scents; summer watermelon, honeyed peach, coconut, and tangerine.

Possible Answers:

The company has several popular shampoo scents: summer watermelon, honeyed peach, coconut, and tangerine.

The company has several popular shampoo scents, summer watermelon, honeyed peach, coconut, tangerine.

The company has several popular shampoo scents; summer watermelon, honeyed peach, coconut, and tangerine.

The company has several popular shampoo scents: Summer watermelon, honeyed peach, coconut, and tangerine.

The company has several popular shampoo scents, summer watermelon, honeyed peach, coconut, and tangerine.

Correct answer:

The company has several popular shampoo scents: summer watermelon, honeyed peach, coconut, and tangerine.

Explanation:

Here, we’re separating an independent clause (“The company has several popular shampoo scents”) from a list (“summer watermelon, honeyed peach, coconut, and tangerine”), so the correct punctuation is a colon and not a semicolon. Semicolons are only used to separate two independent clauses, not an independent clause and a list. Since the list that follows the semicolon isn’t a complete sentence, the first word shouldn’t be capitalized.

Example Question #81 : Correcting Punctuation Errors

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

I’ve never been a good chef, I tend to get distracted and forget that there’s food on the stove.

Possible Answers:

I’ve never been a good chef, I tend to get distracted and forget that there’s food on the stove.

I’ve never been a good chef: I tend to get distracted and forget that there’s food on the stove.

I’ve never been a good chef: I tend to get distracted, and forget that there’s food on the stove.

I’ve never been a good chef, I tend to get distracted, and, forget that there’s food on the stove.

I’ve never been a good chef, I tend to get distracted, and forget that there’s food on the stove.

Correct answer:

I’ve never been a good chef: I tend to get distracted and forget that there’s food on the stove.

Explanation:

A colon is the best choice to separate these two independent clauses, since the second clause is elaborating upon an idea introduced in the first clause. Because “forget that there’s food on the stove” isn’t an independent clause, a comma is not required before the conjunction (“and”).

Example Question #81 : Improving Sentences

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

Jenelle was having a hard time hearing the speaker: she hates when conferences don’t provide good microphones and sound equipment for their lecturers.

Possible Answers:

Jenelle was having a hard time hearing the speaker; she hates when conferences don’t provide good microphones and sound equipment for their lecturers.

Jenelle was having a hard time hearing the speaker, she hates when conferences don’t provide good microphones and sound equipment for their lecturers.

Jenelle was having a hard time hearing the speaker: she hates when conferences don’t provide good microphones and sound equipment for their lecturers.

Jenelle was having a hard time hearing the speaker: She hates when conferences don’t provide good microphones and sound equipment for their lecturers.

Jenelle was having a hard time, hearing the speaker. She hates when conferences don’t provide good microphones and sound equipment for their lecturers.

Correct answer:

Jenelle was having a hard time hearing the speaker; she hates when conferences don’t provide good microphones and sound equipment for their lecturers.

Explanation:

Because the first sentence isn’t really introducing the second sentence but is instead a different thought altogether, a colon isn’t the correct punctuation mark. Instead, a semicolon should be used to separate these two independent clauses.

Example Question #81 : Correcting Punctuation Errors

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

I’ve always had a green thumb for vegetable, flower, and herb gardens: my mother, though, was barely able to keep a houseplant alive.

Possible Answers:

gardens, and my mother, though, was barely able to keep a houseplant alive.

gardens; my mother, though, was barely able to keep a houseplant alive.

gardens; however, my mother, though, was barely able to keep a houseplant alive.

gardens: my mother, though, was barely able to keep a houseplant alive.

gardens: My mother, though, was barely able to keep a houseplant alive.

Correct answer:

gardens; my mother, though, was barely able to keep a houseplant alive.

Explanation:

Because the first sentence isn’t actually introducing the second sentence but is rather a different thought altogether, a colon isn’t the correct punctuation mark. Instead, a semicolon should be used to separate these two independent clauses. Adding a “however” to the second clause would be redundant, as we already have the word “though” to indicate contrast.

Example Question #31 : Colon Errors

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

In the past three years, Jing has lived in Madison, Wisconsin: Ann Arbor, Michigan: and Laramie, Wyoming.

Possible Answers:

In the past three years, Jing has lived in Madison, Wisconsin: Ann Arbor, Michigan: and Laramie, Wyoming.

In the past three years, Jing has lived in Madison, Wisconsin; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Laramie, Wyoming.

In the past three years, Jing has lived in: Madison, Wisconsin; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Laramie, Wyoming.

In the past three years, Jing has lived in Madison, Wisconsin, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Laramie, Wyoming.

In the past three years, Jing has lived in: Madison, Wisconsin: Ann Arbor, Michigan: and Laramie, Wyoming.

Correct answer:

In the past three years, Jing has lived in Madison, Wisconsin; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Laramie, Wyoming.

Explanation:

Because “In the past three years, Jing has lived in” is not an independent clause, no punctuation is needed to separate it from the list that follows. Because the items in the list are compound (each place name contains a comma), semicolons are needed to separate the items and provide clarity.

Example Question #81 : Improving Sentences

Julia had several requirements for the ideal job candidate; he or she should be experienced, amiable, and willing to put in long hours.

Possible Answers:

Julia had several requirements for the ideal job candidate, He or she should be experienced, amiable, and willing to put in long hours.

Julia had several requirements for the ideal job candidate, he or she should be experienced, amiable, and willing to put in long hours.

Julia had several requirements for the ideal job candidate; he or she should be experienced, amiable, and willing to put in long hours.

Julia had several requirements for the ideal job candidate; He or she should be experienced, amiable, and willing to put in long hours.

Julia had several requirements for the ideal job candidate: he or she should be experienced, amiable, and willing to put in long hours.

Correct answer:

Julia had several requirements for the ideal job candidate: he or she should be experienced, amiable, and willing to put in long hours.

Explanation:

Because “Julia had several requirements for the ideal job candidate” is an independent clause, the list that follows must be preceded by a colon, not a semicolon.

Example Question #182 : Sentence Correction

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

Lacey has several basic babysitting rules, the children can only have one friend over at a time, the TV can’t be on during dinner, and bedtime is at eight o’clock sharp.

Possible Answers:

Lacey has several basic babysitting rules, the children can only have one friend over at a time, the TV can’t be on during dinner, and bedtime is at eight o’clock sharp.

Lacey has several basic babysitting rules, The children can only have one friend over at a time, the TV can’t be on during dinner, and bedtime is at eight o’clock sharp.

Lacey has several basic babysitting rules; The children can only have one friend over at a time, the TV can’t be on during dinner, and bedtime is at eight o’clock sharp.

Lacey has several basic babysitting rules; the children can only have one friend over at a time, the TV can’t be on during dinner, and bedtime is at eight o’clock sharp.

Lacey has several basic babysitting rules: the children can only have one friend over at a time, the TV can’t be on during dinner, and bedtime is at eight o’clock sharp.

Correct answer:

Lacey has several basic babysitting rules: the children can only have one friend over at a time, the TV can’t be on during dinner, and bedtime is at eight o’clock sharp.

Explanation:

Because “Lacey has several basic babysitting rules" is an independent clause, the list that follows must be preceded by a colon. A semicolon is never used to separate a list from its antecedent.

Example Question #31 : Colon Errors

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

The following students must report immediately to the principal’s office: Jamie Kendrick, Leon Duke, and Cesar Alonso.

Possible Answers:

The following students must report immediately to the principal’s office; Jamie Kendrick, Leon Duke, and Cesar Alonso.

The following students must report immediately to the principal’s office: Jamie Kendrick, Leon Duke, and Cesar Alonso.

The following students: must report immediately to the principal’s office, Jamie Kendrick, Leon Duke, and Cesar Alonso.

The following students must report immediately to the principal’s office: Jamie Kendrick; Leon Duke; Cesar Alonso.

The following students must report immediately to the principal’s office, Jamie Kendrick, Leon Duke, and Cesar Alonso.

Correct answer:

The following students must report immediately to the principal’s office: Jamie Kendrick, Leon Duke, and Cesar Alonso.

Explanation:

Here, we’re separating an independent clause (“The following students must report immediately to the principal’s office”) from a list (the students’ names), so the correct punctuation is a colon and not a semicolon. Semicolons are only used to separate two independent clauses, not an independent clause and a list. Although the list that follows the semicolon isn’t a complete sentence, the first word must still be capitalized because it’s a person’s name. The items in the list aren’t compound items, so a simple comma is fine to separate them.

Example Question #31 : Colon Errors

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

Lannifer is an expert on growing several kinds of trees: elms, American chestnuts, red oaks, and lindens are among her specialties.

Possible Answers:

Lannifer is an expert on growing several kinds of trees: elms; American chestnuts; red oaks; and lindens are among her specialties.

Lannifer is an expert on growing: several kinds of trees elms, American chestnuts, red oaks, and lindens are among her specialties.

Lannifer is an expert on growing several kinds of trees, elms, American chestnuts, red oaks, and lindens are among her specialties.

Lannifer is an expert on growing several kinds of trees; elms, American chestnuts, red oaks, and lindens are among her specialties.

Lannifer is an expert on growing several kinds of trees: elms, American chestnuts, red oaks, and lindens are among her specialties.

Correct answer:

Lannifer is an expert on growing several kinds of trees: elms, American chestnuts, red oaks, and lindens are among her specialties.

Explanation:

Here, we’re separating an independent clause (“Lannifer is an expert on growing several kinds of trees”) from another independent clause that enumerates several items first introduced in the first clause, so the best punctuation is a colon and not a semicolon.

Example Question #1421 : 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.

His mother had three great qualities; she was tough, she was fair, and she was patient.

Possible Answers:

His mother had three great qualities, she was tough, she was fair, she was patient.

His mother had three great qualities; she was tough, she was fair, she was patient.

His mother had three great qualities: she was tough, she was fair, and she was patient.

His mother had three great qualities; she was tough, she was fair and she was patient.

His mother had three great qualities; she was tough, she was fair, and she was patient.

Correct answer:

His mother had three great qualities: she was tough, she was fair, and she was patient.

Explanation:

When a sentence includes a list, like the list of qualities describing the mother in the example sentence, the list should be preceded by a colon, not a semicolon. Semicolons are used to separate two independent clauses within a sentence.

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors