ACT English Prep: Grammar Conventions
Welcome to the first section of the ACT! In this section, the test will give you several different passages, with underlined portions corresponding to each question number #️⃣ There will be 75 questions in 45 minutes, and for each question, you’ll decide if the underlined portion is correct as it is, or if there's a better option in the answer choices. For more info on the overall structure of the ACT, check out this
overview of the ACT exam.
ACT Tips and Tricks: What You Need to Know 📋
Commas may seem complicated to use, but once you get the hang of the rules, it’ll be a breeze 💨
1. Joining 2 complete sentences w/ a conjunction
Example: I ordered the strawberry, but the chocolate looks delicious too.
Complete sentence 1: I ordered the strawberry.
Complete sentence 2: The chocolate looks delicious too.
Use FANBOYS to easily remember the conjunctions!
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2. Joining a dependent clause + an independent clause
Dependent clauses are not complete sentences and cannot be written on their own. However, use a comma and an independent clause to make it a complete sentence 🤗!
Example: Because I’m a senior this year, I know the school much better than the incoming freshmen.
Dependent clause: Because I’m a senior this year
Independent clause: I know the school much better than the incoming freshmen. ← COMPLETE SENTENCE!
3. Separating items in a list
The Oxford Comma is the optional comma before the word “and” 🤔 Since you can correctly write with or without that comma, the ACT will NOT test you on it.
Correct example 1: In my picnic basket, I have strawberries, fruit tarts, and soda.
Correct example 2: In my picnic basket, I have strawberries, fruit tarts and soda.
4. Surrounding non-essential clauses
Non-essential clauses are just what they sound like. They aren’t essential ❌ in understanding the sentence’s meaning but can be added for extra detail, such as describing someone.
Example: The professor, who previously taught at several famous universities, is coming here today for a lecture.
Note: Make sure to place commas on both sides of a non-essential clause 💡
The ACT Language section will be a breeze once you get the basic rules down!
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Apostrophes are used to show possession 🖐
The girls’ book
The children’s book
Apostrophes are also used with regards to pronouns.
Periods & Semicolons (. ;)
A semicolon has the same meaning as a period! Both are used between complete sentences 📝
Example 1: My field trip is tomorrow. I’m going to spend all night bouncing with excitement.
Example 2: My field trip is tomorrow; I’m going to spend all night bouncing with excitement.
Example 3: My field trip is tomorrow. Therefore, I’m going to spend all night bouncing with excitement.
Example 4: My field trip is tomorrow; therefore, I’m going to spend all night bouncing with excitement.
Remember how we talked about using commas around non-essential phrases? You can use dashes for the same thing 🚀!
Example: The professor – who previously taught at several famous universities – is coming here today for a lecture.
You can also use dashes to set off a list or explanation.
Example: I have many things in my picnic basket – strawberries, fruit tarts, and soda.
Like dashes, colons are used to set off lists or explanations. They come after a complete sentence that logically leads to a list/explanation.
Example (list): If you go to the pool, you should bring these things: A towel, sunscreen, and goggles.
Example (explanation): When we finally arrived at the pool, we weren’t able to swim: the pool was being cleaned.
Tips for ACT Practice ✨
Okay, now you know the grammar rules you'll need for your next ACT exam date. But . . . 🤷♀️what's next? How do you practice them?
The ACT Language section is pretty straightforward and will have many of the same question types. To practice, do lots of practice questions 📚 This will help familiarize you with the test format and question patterns. The ACT website
has released many PDFs of real practice questions.
Another way to practice is to read 📖 “But this isn’t ACT Reading!” you say? True, but it’ll benefit you to see grammar rules being used in writing. Read books, newspapers 📰, etc. It’ll help you become more familiar with the grammar we just went over!
Give yourself a pat on the back! I hope having a better idea of the content that will be covered makes the ACT Language section less intimidating. Good luck on your study journey! For more specific ACT English practice, check out this
article on word choice! If you need extra ACT help overall, check out this
list of awesome resources we've compiled to help you strive for that 36!
You got this ✌️
Need more ACT practice?
Fiveable has you covered! Check out these articles that tell you all you need to know about each ACT Subject!