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Typical Errors on the SAT Proofreading Section

Category:
Parallel Structure Errors

Illustrative Sentences

  • A talented athlete just like his older brother, Harold enjoys biking, skiing, and to play golf.
  • Sharon is a great dancer but, despite years of diligent practice, poor at singing.
  • The purpose of George Bernard Shaw's plays is more to instruct than providing entertainment.
  • The short story contains not only comic elements but also it contains tragic elements.
When a sentence contains related concepts, it should express those concepts in the same (or parallel) grammatical form. In the first example, the sports should be expressed in the same form: biking, skiing, and golfing.

In the second example, the related concepts are Sharon's dancing and singing and should take the same grammatical form, so either of the following versions is acceptable:

    Sharon is a great dancer but, despite years of diligent practice, a poor singer.

    Sharon is great at dancing but, despite years of diligent practice, is poor at singing.

On the SAT, either Sharon's singing or dancing would be underlined for correction. Notice again that a non-underlined part of a sentence can affect an underlined part and that the two parts can be widely separated.

In the third example, the sentence lists two purposes of Shaw's plays—instructing and entertaining—but the two ideas are in different grammatical forms. The following would be an acceptable version of this sentence:

    The purpose of George Bernard Shaw's plays is more to instruct than to entertain.
Finally, certain expressions connect related ideas, and these ideas must be expressed in the same grammatical form. We discussed these expressions under idiom errors, but they are important enough to repeat here. Under idiom errors we were concerned that the two parts of an expression both be included. Here we are concerned not with the two halves of the expressions but with the ideas they connect.

The following expressions all require parallel forms of the phrases (the blanks) that they link:

  • both . . . and
  • either . . . or
  • neither . . . nor
  • whether . . . or
  • not only . . . but also
In the fourth example, what follows "not only" (comic elements) is not in the same form as what follows "but also" (it contains tragic elements). The following would be an acceptable version of this sentence:
    The short story contains not only comic elements but also tragic elements.
Keep your eye out for these expressions; on average one of them will show up on an SAT.

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

  • idiom errors
  • comparison 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.

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


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