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Typical Errors on the SAT Proofreading Section

Sentence Fragments or Run-ons

Illustrative Sentences

  • The supportive words of the teacher offering little consolation to the despondent athlete who had been disqualified on a technicality.
  • Although the two poets wrote about similar themes and used similar techniques.
  • Since the migration patterns of many bird and other species were altered dramatically by greatly increased sunspot activity.
  • The gymnastics coach told the audience of aspiring gymnasts that it takes ten years for athletes to develop their full potential, they should start serious training as early as possible.
In informal writing a sentence fragment is sometimes used for emphasis, but on the SAT Writing Test sentence fragments are always incorrect. The basic grammatical principle is that every sentence requires a subject and a verb, and that sentence fragments lack one or both.

The tricky thing about sentence fragments is that if you read one too quickly, you may not notice that it is indeed a fragment. In the first example, simply changing a single word—"offering" to "offered"—would have transformed the fragment into a complete sentence.

The second and third examples are clauses that cannot stand on their own; they just hang there, incomplete. Although the poets had some things in common—what? Since the migration patterns were altered—what? Notice that deleting the first word of the second or third example would have transformed either into a complete sentence.

A sentence fragment, then, is incomplete; it cannot stand on its own. A run-on sentence has the opposite problem: it consists of two or more parts, either one of which could stand on its own.

The fourth example is a run-on sentence. If we replaced the comma with a period, the two clauses could stand as complete sentences. We'll discuss how to repair run-on sentences in the next section.

Sentence fragments and run-ons should not be difficult to spot now that you know to be on the lookout for them.

You know you shouldn't read proofreading and editing questions casually and that you need to break them down word by word and phrase by phrase. Analyzing sentences in this way presents its own danger, however: getting so caught up in the parts of the sentence that you lose sight of its meaning as a whole.

You will usually need to read each proofreading sentence at least twice. The first time you chop the sentence down, making your way through it word by word and phrase by phrase. The second time, after you've analyzed all its parts, make sure you put them back together again and read through the entire sentence as you would normally.

Related Errors

If this type of error tends to trip you up, you should also review the following categories:

  • transition or punctuation errors
  • verb tense errors
  • diction errors

Next: Page 11 >>

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.

If you'd like to buy this book, click here.

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