Improving Sentences

Report
Preparing for the
Improving Sentences
Section on Standardized Tests
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Standardized tests, particularly the SAT, will present a
sentence and ask how you would revise or edit it.
Usually, all or part of the sentence is underlined. The
answers contain phrases to replace what is underlined
in a way that most improves the sentence.
The improvement might require a revision of grammar,
word choice, structure, or punctuation. If there are no
errors in these areas, you must look for any ambiguity
or awkwardness to correct.
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For example:
Jack and Jill climbed to the top on a
mountain.
(A) climbed to the top on a mountain.
(B) climbed to the top off a mountain.
(C) climbed to the top of a mountain.
(D) climbed on the top on a mountain.
(E) climbed, to the top of a mountain.
Answer: C
Explanation: "top of a mountain" is an idiom
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The Improving Sentences section is different from
the Identifying Sentence Errors section in that it requires you
to fix the sentence rather than just find what's wrong with it. It
also does not have an answer option of "no error." Instead, the
first option is exactly the same as the underlined phrase.
DON'T just read the underlined part and the answer options.
DO read the ENTIRE sentence slowly, and then do it again for
each of the answer options, replacing the underlined part with
each answer choice. As you work, remember the following
common sentence improvements...
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PARALLELISM
Parallelism is a sentence structure that adds clarity by
balancing the sentence's content.
This means each clause in the sentence has the same
sequence of types of words. Look at this example:
"I'm in the attic, and in the cellar is Joe."
It is much better when the "subject, verb, prepositional
phrase" pattern is kept in each clause:
"I am in the attic, and Joe is in the cellar."
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PARALLELISM CONTINUED
Parallelism also means using similar kinds of words when
listing words in a pattern. If you are listing items in a
series, they should all be the same type of word or phrase.
For consistency, make sure all of the pieces in your
succession are singular nouns, plural nouns, verbs of the
same tense, adjectives, etc.
Does this look right?
"Ryan is friendly, smart, and a good athlete."
Write down how you would improve this sentence.
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Did you write this?
"Ryan is friendly, smart, and athletic."
Changing a good athlete to athletic makes it an
adjective. Now it matches the other descriptions of Ryan.
Try this one:
"When I grow up, I want to be a teacher, a
policeman, or work at a store as a
cashier."
Write down how you would correct this sentence.
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Did you write this?
"When I grow up, I want to be a teacher,
a policeman, or a cashier."
The part about working at a store must be a noun to
match the previous two nouns (teacher and policeman).
Here is a tricky one:
"A pediatrician is a children's doctor,
and a foot doctor is a podiatrist."
Write down how you would correct this sentence.
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Did you write this?
"A pediatrician is a children's doctor,
and a podiatrist is a foot doctor."
The kind of doctor is followed by an explanation of the
doctor's specialty, not vice versa.
Try this one:
"My favorite fruits are the banana,
apples, and grapes."
Write down how you would correct this sentence.
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Did you write this?
"My favorite fruits are bananas, apples,
and grapes."
You must make banana plural for it to match the other
fruits.
One more example of lack of parallelism...
"Writing a book takes dedication and being
creative."
You must change being creative to creativity.
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Besides parallelism, there are some other common
sentence improvements to look out for:
• noun/verb agreement
• placement of modifiers
• use of relative clauses
Let's practice some of those:
"The water fountain is broken behind the
playground."
Write down how you would correct this sentence.
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Did you write this?
"The water fountain behind the playground
is broken."
"behind the playground" describes the fountain (not
the break), and so it should follow it directly.
Try this one:
"The student from Mrs. Dura's class lost
their binder."
Write down how you would correct this sentence.
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Did you write this?
"The student from Mrs. Dura's class lost
his binder." (or her binder)
Student is singular, so the possessive pronoun must be.
Try this one:
"Left in the lost and found, Dan recovered
his lunchbox."
Write down how you would correct this sentence.
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Did you write something similar to these?
"Dan recovered his lunchbox from the lost
and found."
or
"Dan recovered his lunchbox, which had
been left in the lost and found."
The initial sentence does not make it clear that it was
Dan's lunchbox that was left in the lost and found.
Instead, it implies that Dan was left there!
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Let's try one more in the test format:
Rachel Carson, a pioneer environmentalist,
she wrote the book Silent Spring.
(A) environmentalist, she wrote
(B) environmentalist, when she wrote
(C) environmentalist, wrote
(D) environmentalist she wrote
(E) environmentalist is famous for writing
The correct answer is C. It is redundant to restate the
subject with a pronoun.
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The end.
More free SAT WRITING resources:
• identifying sentence errors
• editing & revising paragraphs
• improving sentences
• writing the SAT essay - characteristics of
effective writing
Eight-week WRITING courses:
• elementary school
• middle school
• high school
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