ESSENTIAL STRATEGIES FOR REVISING PROBLEMS IN GRAMMAR AND STANDARD USAGE – 2

PROBLEMS OF CLARITY AND COHERENCE –

In this post I am looking at:

  • Effective Transitions
  • Incomplete, Ambiguous and Illogical Comparisons
  • Revising For Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
  • Dangling Modifiers
  • Misplaced Modifiers
  1. Effective Transitions

GUIDE FOR REVISING: Transitions are words or phrases that help the reader by signaling connections between words, or sentences and paragraphs. Many students use transitions or connectives in their writing but using them in more challenging circumstances will enhance your writing repertoire.

I have a brilliant post on using connectives/transitions in essay writing which you can access here entitled:

Hints On Writing A Good To Excellent Essay In English @ High School

Among other things, it focuses on:

  • Using transitions to indicate chronological order. Transitions may be used to indicate frequency, duration, or a particular time.

  • Using transitions to indicate spatial relationships. Transitions may be used to show closeness, distance, or direction.

  • Using transitions to indicate comparison or contrast, or cause and effect.

  1. Incomplete, Ambiguous and Illogical Comparisons

GUIDE FOR REVISING: When something is omitted from a comparison or only implied, the comparison may be incomplete, ambiguous or illogical.

Be sure that a comparison contains only items of a similar kind. In other words, be aware of what is being compared in the sentence. These comparisons must be logical!

An illogical comparison occurs when a sentence compares two things that aren’t of the same type:

Jimmy’s restaurant has more customers than Bob does.

Even though it might seem fine, this sentence is comparing “Jimmy’s restaurant” with “Bob,” which makes no sense. In order to correct it, we have to alter the wording so that the two things being compared are the same type of thing:

Jimmy’s restaurant has more customers than Bob’s restaurant does.

There are two main types of illogical comparison errors that appear on the SAT writing:

The first rule is comparisons between people and things.

The first key rule is that you must compare people to people and things to things.

In my opinion, there is no story more intriguing than Othello. This is an illogical comparison because we must compare a ‘story’ to a ‘story’. It should look like:

In my opinion, there is no story more intriguing than the story of Othello.

So to return to our first example, it’s correct to compare Bob’s restaurant and Jimmy’s restaurant because they’re both things or to compare Bob and Jimmy because they’re both people but you can’t compare Jimmy’s restaurant and Bob or Bob’s restaurant and Jimmy.

The second rule is that you can’t compare something of specific type to all things of that type.

This rule may sound strange, but it doesn’t make sense to compare one person with everyone—you would compare them with everyone else. You can’t compare something with a group that includes that thing without specifying that you’re talking about everything else in the group. Let’s look at an example:

  • Incorrect: A cheetah is faster than any land mammal.
  • Correct: A cheetah is faster than any other land mammal.

Although most illogical comparisons questions on the SAT test one of these rules, you may see some that don’t. In those cases, you’ll have to use common sense to determine if a comparison is logical. For example, it makes sense to compare a train and a car, it doesn’t make sense to compare a train and the length of a car.

Incorrect: Napoleon Bonaparte is more famous than any leader in French history.

Correct: Napoleon Bonaparte is more famous than any other leader in French history.

Pay attention to exactly what the sentence is saying—it’s easy to extrapolate the intended point and miss the error in the wording. Keep this SAT writing strategy in mind!

Any comparison between two or more items must have three characteristics: completeness        consistency            clarity

Be sure to include the words other and else in comparisons that compare one of a group with the rest of the group.

Comparing exactly two vs three or more.

When comparing only two things use between, more  or -er ending words as in better, faster, stronger, etc.

When comparing three or more things use among, most and -est ending words.

When you see BETWEEN and AMONG, remember:

BETWEEN compares exactly two things, so always use ‘and’ and always use ‘me’ not ‘I’.

  • Incorrect: The decision is between Ahmed or I.
  • Correct: The decision is between Ahmed and me.

AMONG compares three things or more. Always use “and” and also use “me” not “I”.

  • Incorrect: Among Celia, Mary or I , Bessie is the prettiest.
  • Correct: Among Celia, Mary and me , Bessie is the prettiest.

When checking for illogical comparison, think of parallelism: Pineapples to apples NOT pineapples to eating apples.

Things that you compare have to agree in number. Both are either singular or plural.

  1. Revising For Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

GUIDE FOR REVISING: Personal pronouns must agree with their antecedents in number (singular or plural), person (first, second or third), and gender (masculine, feminine or neuter).

A pronoun is a word used to stand for (or take the place of) a noun.

Make sure that a pronoun used to stand for a noun that appears somewhere in the sentence agrees in number (singular of plural) with that noun.

A word can refer to an earlier noun or pronoun in the sentence.

President Lincoln delivered Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in 1863.

We do not talk or write this way.  Automatically, we replace the noun Lincoln’s with a pronoun.  More naturally, we say

President Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address in 1863.

The pronoun his refers back to President Lincoln.  President Lincoln is the ANTECEDENT for the pronoun his.

An antecedent is a word for which a pronoun stands.  (ante = “before”)

The pronoun must agree with its antecedent in number. Since the pronoun replaces the noun, it has to agree in number. So, if the antecedent, or word that comes before, is singular, then the pronoun that takes its place must also be singular.

Thus, a singular pronoun must replace a singular noun; a plural pronoun must replace a plural noun.

When you use a pronoun to stand for two or more nouns joined by or or nor, make sure that it is singular. Use a plural personal pronoun if any part of a compound antecedent joined by or or nor, is plural.

First Draft: Neither Samuel Johnson nor Charles Dickens had their roots in London.

Revision: Neither Samuel Johnson nor Charles Dickens had his roots in London.

When you use a personal pronoun to stand for a singular indefinite pronoun, make sure that it is also singular. Use a plural personal pronoun when the antecedent is a plural indefinite pronoun.

First Draft: Both Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes are important contemporary voices in British poetry; however, each displays a quite different style in their verse.

Revision: Both Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes are important contemporary voices in British poetry; however, each displays a quite different style in his verse.

Do not use a pronoun to stand for a noun unless it is obvious which noun is its antecedent.

First Draft: Both Daniel Defoe and Samuel Pepys described the Great Plague of 1665, but he wrote a firsthand account.

Revision: Both Daniel Defoe and Samuel Pepys described the Great Plague of 1665, but Pepsy wrote a firsthand account.

  1. Dangling Modifiers

GUIDE FOR REVISING: A dangling phrase or clause either seems to modify the wrong word or no word at all, because the word it should logically modify has been omitted from the sentence.

Modifiers are words, phrases, or clauses that add description. They change, alter, limit, or add more information to something else in the sentence. In clear, logical sentences, you will often find modifiers right next to—either in front of or behind—the target words they logically describe.

A modifier is considered dangling when the sentence isn’t clear about what is being modified. It is a descriptive phrase followed by the wrong subject.

Strategies For Revising Dangling Modifiers

  1. Name the appropriate or logical doer of the action as the subject of the main clause:

Having arrived late for practice, a written excuse was needed.

Who arrived late? This sentence says that the written excuse arrived late. To revise, decide who actually arrived late. The possible revision might look like this:

Having arrived late for practice, the team captain needed a written excuse.

The main clause now names the person (the captain) who did the action in the modifying phrase (arrived late).

  1. Change the phrase that dangles into a complete introductory clause by naming the doer of the action in that clause:

Without knowing his name, it was difficult to introduce him.

Who didn’t know his name? This sentence says that “it” didn’t know his name. To revise, decide who was trying to introduce him. The revision might look something like this:

Because Maria did not know his name, it was difficult to introduce him.

The phrase is now a complete introductory clause; it does not modify any other part of the sentence, so is not considered “dangling.”

  1. Combine the phrase and main clause into one:

To improve his results, the experiment was done again.

Who wanted to improve results? This sentence says that the experiment was trying to improve its own results. To revise, combine the phrase and the main clause into one sentence. The revision might look something like this:

He improved his results by doing the experiment again.

  1. Misplaced Modifiers

GUIDE FOR REVISING: A modifier placed too far away from the word it modifies is called a misplaced modifier.

A misplaced modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that is improperly separated from the word it modifies/describes.

Because of the separation, sentences with this error often sound awkward, ridiculous, or confusing.  Furthermore, they can be downright illogical.

One way to avoid misplaced modifiers is to always be sure that the word or words the modifier describes is in the sentence. Furthermore, modifiers should always be located directly before or after the word or words they modify.

Remember: Move the modifying word, phrase, or clause closer to the word it should logically modify.

Types of Misplaced Modifiers

There are different kinds of misplaced modifiers, and we will go through the most common kinds below.

Limiting Modifiers

Limiting modifiers express some sort of “limit.” They should come directly before the word they modify in a sentence.

The most common limiting modifiers are: almost, hardly, just, merely, nearly, and only.

Limiting Modifier Examples:

Trying to say that: The one food Michelle eats is pizza.

  • Incorrect: Only Michelle eats pizza.
  • Correct: Michelle eats only . . .

Trying to say that: George does not know many people.

  • Incorrect: George knows hardly . . .
  • Correct: George hardly knows anybody.

Squinting Modifiers

A squinting modifier is usually an adverb which could easily modify the word that comes before or after it.

These sentences should be restructured so it is clear which word or words the modifier describes.

Squinting Modifier Examples:

  • Incorrect: Running through the forest immediately exhausted the dog.

Did the dog run immediately or did running immediately exhaust him?

  • Correct: Running through the forest exhausted the dog immediately.

 Disruptive Modifiers

A disruptive modifier is one that interrupts the flow of a sentence because it is located between the verb and the object.

“He was instructed to administer every two hours the dosage,” administer and “the dosage” should be adjacent.

The modifying phrase, in this case, is best positioned at the end:

He was instructed to administer the dosage every two hours.

This is a lot take at one go, so practicing will make things  a lot easier. Good luck.

Still to come is Part Three of SIX lessons on ESSENTIAL STRATEGIES FOR REVISING PROBLEMS IN GRAMMAR AND STANDARD USAGE.

Would like to say something? Please use the comments page below.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL

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