The SAT Proofreading and Editing Section: Basic Principles
(Please Don't Read These Explanations Until You've Taken the Quiz)
Only the first and last sentences were grammatically correct. The other eight sentences contained precisely the kinds of errors you're likely to see on your test. Give yourself credit only if you spotted the specific error. Remember: it's not enough merely to say something within a sentence "sounded wrong."
- The two pieces of woodwork by the apprentice carpenters were each so finely sanded that it took the trained eye of their teacher to determine that the oak tabletop was more nearly flat than was the pine tabletop.
(Error-free sentence: although this sentence may seem awkward, the idea it expresses has to be phrased this particular way. It's impossible for one thing to be flatter than anothersomething is either flat or it's notbut one thing can be more nearly flat.)
- After a thorough examination, the doctor told Melissa that she should exercise more vigorously as well as more regularly.
(Ambiguity error: we aren't sure whether the doctor was advising Melissa that she should exercise more regularly, or admitting that she herself should exercise more regularly.)
- The photo-finish of the 100-meter race was so close that each of the first five finishers thought that they had won.
(Singular-plural error: the pronoun each is singular, so instead of the word they, which is plural, the sentence should use the singular he or she.)
- Titus Andronicus, one of Shakespeare's lesser-known works and the inspiration for the popular movie Gladiator, is a play where the noble protagonist suffers a tragic fate.
(Pronoun error: the sentence should read, a play in which ...)
- The academic habits and expectations of teenage girls are very different from teenage boys.
(Comparison error: this sentence compares girls academic habits with boys, but the writer meant to compare girls habits with those of boys.)
- The causes of the American Civil War were not only social and political, but also economical and technological.
(Diction error: economical means thrifty. Whoops. The word should have been economic.)
- All of the former classmates are planning on attending the formal reunion ceremony, and most have said that they will also attend the reception party afterwards.
(Idiom error: You don't plan on doing something, you plan to do it.)
- When completely painted with the third and final coat of varnish, Peter set the antique chair outside on the porch to get some sun.
(Modifier error: presumably the chair was painted, not Peter! The sentence should read, 'When Peter had completely painted the antique chair, he set it outside on the porch.)
- "By the time you get back," Tim assured his doubtful mother and father as they were preparing to leave for a parent-teacher conference, "I promise I will complete my history term paper."
(Verb tense error: Tim is promising that by the time his parents return, he will have completed his paper.)
- Were it not for the downturn of the local economy last year, the then-popular mayor would surely have been reelected.
(Error-free sentence: the sentence could have been phrased differently and certainly more clearly, but it contains no grammatical errors.)
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From The RocketReview Revolution: The Ultimate Guide to the New SAT and the PSAT by Adam Robinson. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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