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Typical Errors on the SAT Proofreading Section

Category:
Transition or Punctuation Errors

Illustrative Sentences

  • Many students are intimidated by math, they do not realize that solving problems is a lot like following simple recipes.
  • Discount coupons are accepted at the store's Manhattan location, and they are not accepted at the store's New Jersey locations.
  • The summer program offered intensive immersion sessions in the following languages, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and even Latin and ancient Greek.
  • The principle is this, all contestants should be given an equal opportunity to prepare for the science fair.
Sentence fragments and run-on sentences can be fixed with proper punctuation and by transitional words or phrases. I've included punctuation and transitional words together because they both serve the same function: indicating the transition between ideas and sentences.

You may have recognized after our previous discussion that the first example is a run-on sentence. When two halves of a sentence can both stand on their own, a comma is not the correct punctuation. The comma here should be replaced by either a period or a semicolon. Since most of the proofreading questions involve single sentences, providing a semicolon is the typical solution to this error. On the SAT Writing Test, the semicolon is used primarily to link two independent thoughts.

The second example illustrates a transition error. The word and should be but because the second clause introduces an idea contrary to that in the first clause. We can revise this sentence in two primary ways, so please examine the following sentences closely:

    Discount coupons are accepted at the store's Manhattan location, but they are not accepted at the store's New Jersey locations.

    Discount coupons are accepted at the store's Manhattan location; they are not, however, accepted at the store's New Jersey locations.

Notice that the subtle but important change from but to however requires that we switch from a comma to a semicolon. The rationale for this grammatical point is too complicated for our purposes, so just notice the difference. You will not be asked to choose between these two solutions; all you need to do is recognize that both solutions are acceptable.

The third and fourth examples illustrate situations in which a colon is required. A colon is used to introduce specific information discussed earlier in a sentence, or to clarify the first half of the sentence. The correct versions of these sentences would be the following:

    The summer program offered intensive immersion sessions in the following languages: French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and even Latin and ancient Greek.

    The principle is this: all contestants should be given an equal opportunity to prepare for the science fair.

Errors requiring the use of a colon do not appear often on the proofreading questions, but it's an easy concept, so it was worth covering quickly.

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

  • sentence fragments or run-ons


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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.

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


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