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SAT Language: Grammar Conventions

25 min readseptember 13, 2021

jed

Jed Q


SAT 🎓

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Grammar… Who? 😳

If your English teacher introduced grammar at some point as "something you might not have heard of," you may have panicked for a bit. Don't worry! Grammar just refers to the "study of words." It explores how we use words in sentences and how they change depending on the situation 📙. 
Wanna hear a little surprise? We actually incorporate and apply grammar in our daily lives–from texting friends to writing essays to debating who's the best rapper of the early 2020s. Still don't believe me? Try answering the three fill-in-the-blanks below:
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-uVazKaUH9eGd.png?alt=media&token=381ab218-5ba7-4f1c-88c3-e2bdd0caf5f1

Image from EnglishTestBlog.com.

Now, one way of approaching any of the three questions is process of elimination (POE). For #1, "He had draw a line under my name" doesn't sound right, right? That's exactly what I mean about grammar being of second nature to us. If you answered C, B, and A for #1, 2, and 3, respectively, then pat yourself on the back–you're on your way to becoming the next grammar genius in town 🏆!

Grammar Conventions in the SAT 🔧

Now, let's talk about everyone's favorite standardized test in town: the SAT. Within its Writing and Language section, you'll deal with questions regarding Grammar Conventions. Here's what the College Board says about them:
"This is about the building blocks of writing: sentence structure, usage, and punctuation. You’ll be asked to change words, clauses, sentences, and punctuation. Some topics covered include verb tense, parallel construction, subject-verb agreement, and comma use."
Sounds like a lot to take in? Let's break it down further 💥!
  • Building Blocks of Writing
    • Sentence Structure: recognizing and correcting sentence formation problems and inappropriate shifts in sentence construction
    • Conventions of Usage: observing standard usage practices
    • Conventions of Punctuation: observing standard punctuation practices
  • Editing/Revising Tasks
    • Change words, clauses (group of words with subject and verb), sentences
    • Punctuation (".", ",", ":", ";", etc.)
  • Additional Topics
    • Verb tenses (past, present, future, etc.)
    • Parallel construction ("He loves to walk, dance, and eat.")
    • Subject-verb agreement ("I eat" vs. "I eats")
    • Comma use 
We'll go even more in-depth in the following sections. Stay tuned 😋!

Getting Artsy and Crafty with Words 🎨

Compared to the other SAT Language sections, Grammar Conventions is more on the technical side. That means that you should highly familiarize yourself with the rules and the standards so that you know what word to put in place of the underlined word in every Grammar Convention question. Again, we'll follow the rough outline introduced in the previous section, adding practice questions and more concrete explanations onto each mini-topic ☁️. 

Sentence Structure 🌉

A. Sentence Boundaries 🙅

🌰 What the College Board says: Recognizing and correcting grammatically incomplete sentences that aren’t rhetorically effective (the “good”—clearly deliberate—sentence fragments)
What It Basically Means: You'd want to know what makes a sentence complete or incomplete.
🤔 What You Need to Remember:
  • A sentence has (1) a subject (something, usually a noun/pronoun, that performs an action/is described), (2) a predicate (usually a verb/"action word" expressing the action by the subject), and (3) a complete thought.
    • Ex. I always wake up in the morning to catch a glimpse of Uncle Jimmy's cows.
  • A fragment usually is missing at least ONE of (1), (2), and (3).
    • Ex. Uncle Jimmy's cows (missing predicate)
    • Ex. To catch a glimpse of his cows (missing subject)
    • Ex. Always waking up in the morning (incomplete thought)
  • You can end complete sentences in periods (.), exclamation points (!), and question marks (?).
    • Ex. Have you seen the sequel to Boss Baby?
    • Ex. I hate pineapple on pizza!
    • Ex. It is frustrating how the SAT is coming up very soon.
  • You can also end sentences in semicolons (;) if the next clause (group of words) is still connected to the original sentence.
    • Ex. I heard the San Diego Zoo is among the most popular zoos in the world; it is said to have more than 500 animals and 20 shops.
  • You CANNOT end fragments in periods (.). You can only end them in commas (,) especially if they are at the front of the sentence.
    • Wrong: Too exhausted to talk. Jimmy drifted off to sleep.
    • Correct: Too exhausted to talk, Jimmy drifted off to sleep.

B. Subordination and Coordination 🙌

🌰 What the College Board says: Recognizing and correcting problems in how major parts of sentences are related
What It Basically Means: You'd want to know your different subordinating and coordinating conjunctions and how they relate in a sentence!
🤔 What You Need to Remember:
  • A clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb.
  • An independent clause is a clause that can stand alone, on its own (think independence!).
    • Ex. Wetlands are becoming less and less prevalent over time.
  • A dependent clause, on the other, is a clause that CANNOT stand alone, almost like a fragment. In other words, it doesn't make sense if you hear it in a conversation (think: cliffhanger)!
    • Ex. Although she enjoys ravioli
    • Ex. Because Kanye West delayed the launch of 'Donda'
  • Conjunctions are words that link other words, phrases, or clauses together.
    • Ex. bored yet hungry
    • Ex. My mom loves watching NASCAR events, but my dad prefers watching figure skating championships.
  • Coordinating conjunctions join equally important ideas together (aka phrases or two independent clauses).
    • Ex. Will we find you near the pier or by the beach? (two phrases)
    • Ex. People can have differing opinions, but there are always opportunities for everyone to unite and find commonalities. (two independent clauses)
  • Subordinating conjunctions combine a dependent clause and an independent clause.
    • Ex. Joaquin studied Japanese so that he can do a study abroad program in the Far East next semester. (Joaquin studied Japanese = independent clause; so that he can. . . = dependent clause)
    • Ex. Unless the church can find 50 more donors, it will shut down next month. (Unless the church. . . = dependent clause; it will shut down. . . = independent clause)
  • Here's a list of coordinating (remember FANBOYS?) and subordinating conjunctions:
FANBOYSStands forMeaningExample
FforbecauseSamantha went job hunting, for she needs a way to sustain her shopaholic tendencies.
Aandin addition toBTS is becoming a household name in the Western world, and its members are performing more and more concerts in North America and Europe.
Nnorand notI don't expect customers to be demanding, nor do I expect employees to be rude.
BbuthoweverChina was close to taking the top spot of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic medal tally, but the United States was able to retake the lead with 39 gold medals.
Ooreither (another option)I will go to the gym, or I will binge another season of Outer Banks at home.
YyetbutDr. Salzburg was fired last week for consistent truancy, yet many people still admired him.
SsothereforeCody saw a food vlogger on TikTok, so he ordered a sandwich from the local restaurant.
  • Here is a list of subordinating conjunctions (if you see these at the beginning of a clause, it's a subordinating clause):
afterbeforeonceunless
althougheven if sinceuntil
as if even thoughso thatwhen
as thoughifthan whether
becausein that thoughwhile
Sample Question: Unless he transferred to a new school, Jeremy struggled with finding friends.
(A) NO CHANGE
(B) Although
(C) Because
(D) Even though
ANSWER: (C) Because. "Unless" gives more of an ultimatum-like vibe (has a consequence). "Although" and "Even though" (similar meanings) do not fit the outcome of Jeremy's situation as he struggled due to his transfer. "Because" is the most appropriate, as it connects Jeremy's evident struggle to his transfer to a new school.

C. Parallel Structure ⛓️

🌰 What the College Board says: Recognizing and correcting problems with parallelism
What It Basically Means: When looking at items in groups, make sure to keep them consistent. This is the key idea of parallelism in grammar.
🤔 What You Need to Remember:
  • You know how parallel lines go in the same direction? That's the same idea with parallel structure: keeping the format similar throughout the sentence.
    • Ex. I like drinking milk tea, singing Khalid songs, and collecting pins. (-ing ___, -ing ___, and -ing ___)
    • Ex. I want to dance, to ride horses, and to take photos. (to ___, to ___, and to ___).
Sample Question: To win at scrabble, I suggest that you focus on spelling longer words, reach the "double" or "triple" bonuses, and using all your rare consonants.
(A) NO CHANGE
(B) reaches
(C) reaching 
(D) to reach
ANSWER: (C). Remember, stay consistent!
  • Parallel structure in verbs: Keep them within the same verb tense!
    • Ex. He enlisted into the army, trained diligently, and fought against the enemies of the nation.
    • Ex. By donating to UNICEF, we can support those in need, keep the organization running, and make plentiful use of our money!
  • Parallel structure in groups/pairs: Follow your instincts!
    • Ex. You shouldn't give up neither your life nor your effort for a futile cause.
    • Ex. Contemporary critics view Romeo's love for Juliet as something that is as shallow as a pond.
    • Ex. The police found both the illegal paraphernalia and the missing individuals.
    • Ex. Dean Johnson's favorite activities range from judo to kayaking.
    • Ex. Crazily, my sister wants to not only go rock climbing but also go cliff diving.

D. Modifier Placement 🗺️

🌰 What the College Board says: Recognizing and correcting problems with modifier placement, including dangling and misplaced modifiers
What It Basically Means: Beware of dangling and misplaced modifiers. Know what your pronouns are referring to and be sure to clearly indicate them.
🤔 What You Need to Remember:
  • You know that awkward feeling when you read a sentence that doesn't make any sense the first time around and try to understand what the writer was saying? 
    • Ex. Crushed and brutally pulverized, the chef grabbed the ground pepper from within the mortar.
  • Tricky, right? "Crushed and brutally pulverized" refers to the mortar and yet, the sentence makes it seem like the chef was the one being pulverized. That's an example of a dangling modifier.
  • You want your modifiers (the phrase describing something) as close as possible to the object they are describing.
Sample Question: After being caught in the act, the on-site reporters excitedly snapped photos of the malevolent vandals.
(A) NO CHANGE
(B) the on-site reporters and the malevolent vandals ran.
(C) the malevolent vandals ran away from the excited on-site reporters.
(D) the photos of the malevolent vandals were snapped by on-site reporters.
ANSWER: (C). Ask yourself, "Who was caught in the act?" The vandals! (Not the on-site reporters. Not the photos.) Remember, you want your modifier to be as close as possible to what it's describing.

E. Shifts in Verb Tense, Mood, and Voice 🔊

🌰 What the College Board says: (e.g., changing inappropriately from past to present tense)
What It Basically Means: Stay consistent with your verb tenses.
🤔 What You Need to Remember:
  • For 90% of the time, you will be asked to check a sentence for tense inconsistencies. In other words, does the tense used help the sentence make sense to the reader?
  • Past vs. Present Tense: look for hints through timestamps
    • Ex. Yesterday, aunt Rosa shopped for souvenirs in downtown San Francisco.
    • Ex. Scientists sanctioned by the UN recently stated that in terms of climate change, the world will be in a dire place by 2040.
Sample Question: Back in his day, Grampa Joad pulled out the weeds and chop down trees in his backyard.
(A) NO CHANGE
(B) chopping
(C) will chop
(D) chopped
ANSWER: (D). You can treat this one as a parallel structure question… OR notice the "back in his day" hint, which indicates that Grampa's actions happened way back in the past!
  • Indicative (your classic action) vs. Conditional (a “what if” action) Mood: 
    • Ex. The drink might explode if you shake the bottle. (Conditional)
    • Ex. When he shook the bottle, the drink exploded. (Indicative; past tense) 
  • Active vs. Passive Voice: In the SAT, we always want to use the active voice. because It's shorter, more concise, and more straightforward. 
    • Passive: The drink was served by the waitress.
    • Active: The waitress served the drink.
  • NOTE: the active vs. passive voice rule is oftentimes independent from the goal of identifying the correct verb tense. Don't avoid the passive voice like the plague if it turns out to be the right answer when it comes to verb tense consistency!
    • Ex. The emcee presented the plaque at the ceremony and the guest was beyond excited to receive it. (past tense so use "was")

F. Shifts in Pronoun Person and Number 🔢 

🌰 What the College Board says: (e.g., changing inappropriately from second person “you” to third person “one”)
What It Basically Means: Keep track of what the pronouns refer to, and don't mix up your numbers.
🤔 What You Need to Remember:
  • Don't get thrown off by collective nouns that usually indicate groups.
    • Ex. The orangutan at the Los Angeles Zoo shoved a bunch of bananas down its throat and gnawed it aggressively. (it refers to a bunch of bananas, not the bananas themselves!)
    • Ex. The Jamesons saw a pack of wolves and admired it from afar. (Again, it refers to pack, not the wolves.)
  • Remember your first-person (I/me, we/our), second-person (you), and third-person (they/them, he/him, she/her, it/its) pronoun series.
    • Ex. Fifteen college students were randomly assigned to form groups within themselves. (not himself, herself, theirselves, or ourselves
Sample Question: Agatha and her classmates followed her teacher outside the wet laboratory right after the smoke alarm went off.
(A) NO CHANGE
(B) our
(C) its
(D) their
ANSWER: (D). We have a plural subject (Agatha and her classmates), so it makes sense to use a plural pronoun (which eliminates choice A and C). Since "I" wasn't mentioned, we can't use choice B. That leaves us choice D!

Conventions of Usage 👜

A. Pronoun Clarity 💡

🌰 What the College Board says: Recognizing and correcting ambiguous or vague pronouns (pronouns with more than one possible antecedent or no clear antecedent at all)
What It Basically Means: Like the previous convention, keep track of what the sentence's pronouns refer to.
🤔 What You Need to Remember:
  • An antecedent refers to the noun that a pronoun replaces. Otherwise, sentences would be repetitive, don't you think?
    • Ex. "Jed is a rising college freshman. Jed loves his cookies burnt to a crisp." >>>> "Jed is a rising college freshman. He loves his cookies burnt to a crisp.
  • This convention is more of an accuracy check that you should slow down and take the time to do than an actually daunting rule! Remember, we shoot for clarity in grammar, especially with our antecedents.
    • Ex. Dolly and Polly went to her cousin's room to gossip about their summer adventures in Cancun. (Who's her, Dolly or Polly?)
    • Ex. Michael gave Steven his book. (Who's his, Michael or Steven?)
Sample Question (from Khan Academy): After practicing the violin together for 15 years, Justine told Katie that she was the better violinist.
(A) NO CHANGE
(B) Katie was
(C) she were
(D) they were
ANSWER: (B). She, in this case, is a vague antecedent. Who's better: Justine or Katie? (C) can be eliminated since she and were are not in agreement (see Subject-Verb Agreement). In contrast to (D) which does not add clarity, (B) asserts that Katie is the better violinist, which answers our "who?" question!

B. Possessive Determiners 🔮

🌰 What the College Board says: Distinguishing between and among possessive determiners (“its,” “your,” “their”), contractions (“it’s,” “you’re,” “they’re”), and adverbs (“there”)
What It Basically Means: Know the difference between its vs. it's, their vs. they're vs. there, and your vs. you're. With this knowledge, you can finally end longtime grammar debates on Twitter. Woo-hoo!
🤔 What You Need to Remember:
  • Its: possessive pronoun that means "belonging to it"
    • Ex. I felt bad after I saw a dying plant with its flowers wilting.
    • Ex. The dog wagged its tail happily while waiting for its master.
  • It’s: contraction of "it is," typically followed by a thought
    • Ex. It's raining today. (aka "It is raining today.")
    • Ex. Don't you think it's frustrating to see people litter? (aka "Don't you think it is frustrating to see people litter?")
  • Their: possessive pronoun that means "belonging to them"
    • Ex. Jolene and her friends paid for their concert tickets by the concession stand.
    • Ex. It's quite weird to think that the students of the high school class of 2021 will be embarking on their college journeys in the next few months.
  • They’re: contraction of "they are," typically followed by a thought
    • Ex. With COVID-19 cases increasing because of the Delta variant, nurses are becoming overwhelmed, especially when they're frantically conserving the remaining supplies they have.
    • Ex. It's challenging to babysit children because they're always running everywhere.
  • There: NOT a pronoun or contraction; typically used on contexts related to availability and location
    • Ex. There are five red trucks parked outside the fire department building.
    • Ex. The museum is over there by the traffic light.
  • Your: possessive pronoun that means "belonging to you"
    • Ex. I remember your mother baking scrumptious cookies whenever we got out of school.
    • Ex. The student council's campaign slogan was "Your mental health comes first!"
  • You’re: contraction of "you are," typically followed by a thought
    • Ex. You're so annoying!
    • Ex. Out of all the contenders in this pageant, the judges believe that you're the most radiant.
Sample Question: If we're talking about must-go places, I'd personally go for Fisherman's Wharf because of their vibrance.
(A) NO CHANGE
(B) you're
(C) its
(D) there
ANSWER: (C). Fisherman's Wharf is a third-person singular noun, and we want a pronoun with it as an antecedent. This eliminates (A) (third-person plural), (B) (second-person non-pronoun), and (D) (non-pronoun).

C. Agreement 👍

🌰 What the College Board says: Ensuring agreement between subject and verb, between pronoun and antecedent, and between nouns
What It Basically Means: You want to match the noun (or pronoun) with the right number with the verb (helping or action) corresponding for that said number.
🤔 What You Need to Remember:
  • In a sentence…
    • "He/she/it/(singular noun)/(singular collective noun)" + is/was/(singular verb)
    • "You/they/we/(plural noun)/" + are/were/(plural verb)
    • "I" + am
      • Ex. The dogs were noisy.
      • Ex. There are groups of children pushing each other in the playground.
      • Ex. The showdown between the fairies and the clowns is starting soon.
      • Ex. Calvin Klein and his subordinates were absent in today's press conference, unfortunately.
      • Ex. We usually wake up by the third ring of the nun's bell.
  • Don't get thrown off by prepositional phrases, comma phrases, and relative clauses. They're there (get the pun?) to distract you from the main subject and throw you off your game!
    • Ex. Alvin, accompanied by the other chipmunks, performed at the Times Square Ball Drop.
      • We can get rid of the whole phrase in-between the commas: "Alvin performed at the Times Square Ball Drop." Better?
    • Ex. "Movies by Quentin Tarantino, including Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight, interest moviegoers with jarring plot twists."
      • We can get rid of "by Quentin Tarantino" and the whole phrase in-between the commas: "Movies interest moviegoers with jarring plot twists." Sounds easier to answer, right?
  • Remember, you always agree with the subject, NOT the object.
    • Ex. The drafts I completed a couple of days ago have impressed my film professor again and again. (Have impressed agrees with drafts, not film professor. Remember: what impressed the professor?)
    • Ex. The pencils are lying down in the corner of the room, while the laptop charger has been hidden under the bed. (Has agrees with charger, not pencils. Remember: what's under the bed?)
    • Ex. Frequent guests of the Ellen show love the opening dancing sequence. (Love agrees with guests, not show. Remember: who loves the opening dancing sequence?)
Sample Question: Harry Houdini's daredevil stunts requires skill and his charisma never fails to impress.
(A) NO CHANGE
(B) require; fail
(C) require; fails
(D) requires; fail
ANSWER: (C). Require corresponds with stunts (plural), while fails corresponds with charisma (singular). Getting the hang of it?

D. Frequently Confused Words 💫

🌰 What the College Board says: Distinguishing between and among words that are commonly mistaken for one another (e.g., “affect” and “effect”)
What It Basically Means: You should be able to differentiate between two English words that sound the same but have different definitions and usages.
🤔 What You Need to Remember:
  • Honestly, this is a wildcard. Like how the English dictionary has gajillions of words, there are a LOT of "frequently confused words" out there. Don't worry, though! Here are a couple words that can potentially pop up on a SAT Writing and Language question or two:
Word 1Word 2
thanthen
lessfewer
muchmany
acceptexcept
affecteffect
accessexcess
complimentcomplement
afflictinflict
alludeseludes
elicitilicit
citesight/site
wonderwander
Try to come up with as many "frequently confused words" as possible in your own sentences and see if you can identify word 1 from word 2 (or even 3)!
Un-Confusion Time! Identify the grammatically correct sentence:
(A) Hurricane Harvey has affected millions of Americans.
(B) During the 19th century, child labor effected almost every household's work dynamic. 
(C) Watch your words because if carelessly said, they can effect people negatively.
(D) Today, Negan presented a report on the Industrial Revolution and its long-term affects.
ANSWER: (A). Affect is usually a verb that means "to produce an effect upon," while effect is usually a noun meaning a "change" or "consequence."

E. Logical Comparison 🧺

🌰 What the College Board says: Recognizing and correcting cases in which unlike terms are compared
What It Basically Means: Compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. You can't compare apple stems to apples.
🤔 What You Need to Remember:
  • Similar to how we approach parallel structures, we want to be sure that comparisons are made between things/items/events that are explicitly similar.
    • WRONG: Life in the Northern Water Tribe is completely different from the Southern Water Tribe.
    • CORRECT: Life in the Northern Water Tribe is completely different from that in the Southern Water Tribe.
  • No, literally. You can even call Logical Comparison the second cousin of Parallel Structure.
    • WRONG: When encountering a lion, it is better to hide than running away.
    • CORRECT: When encountering a lion, it is better to hide than run away.

F. Conventional Expression 🎈

🌰 What the College Board says: Recognizing and correcting cases in which, for no good rhetorical reason, language fails to follow conventional practice
What It Basically Means: Sometimes, the English language has exceptions that circumvent typical conventions. You'd want to be aware of these nuances and recognize them in a test setting.
🤔 What You Need to Remember:
  • These fellas come in exclusive pairs (can't be paired with other words):
    • Neither… nor…
    • Either… or…
    • From… to…
    • As… as…
    • Between… and…
    • Not only… but also…
  • Propositions (usually in vs. on vs. at) are trickier. If you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation, trust your instinct! 
    • Ex. Sometimes, I find it hard to focus on what the teacher is doing in class.
    • Ex. The USSR stands for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
  • You can also try reading the sentence out loud or in your head and see if it sounds awkward or not. Oftentimes, doing so offers a solid clue on whether an option is correct.

Conventions of Punctuation 🦋

A. End-of-Sentence Punctuation 🔚

🌰 What the College Board says: Using the correct form of ending punctuation (period, question mark, or exclamation point) when the context makes the writer’s intent clear
What It Basically Means: Know which punctuation (., ?, !) should you use to end a sentence depending on the writer's intent. 
🤔 What You Need to Remember:
  • If the sentence is a statement, end it with the good ol’ period (.).
    • Ex. Archaeologists may have yet to uncover all of the Earth's wonders, but there is always room for inquiry after every expedition.
    • Ex. There are exactly 7,641 islands in the Philippine archipelago.
  • If the sentence is interrogative (think who, what, how, why, when, etc.) or rhetorical in nature, end it with the fancy question mark (?).
    • Ex. One may wonder, what lies beyond life and death?
    • Ex. How does one reconcile the differences between fact and fiction?
  • If the sentence conveys a strong emotion, end it with the demanding exclamation point (!).
    • Ex. It's raining cats and dogs!
    • Ex. Today is a huge win for mankind!

B. Within-Sentence Punctuation 🧰

🌰 What the College Board says: Correctly using and recognizing and correcting misuses of colons, semicolons, and dashes
What It Basically Means: Know the difference between ",", ":", ";", and "—" inside sentences. 
🤔 What You Need to Remember:
  • Remember independent clauses? We use semicolons (;) to join them together
    • Ex.  The Sentinelese are among the last groups of people that remain isolated from the modern world; they vigorously reject all forms of contact with outsiders.
      • "The Sentinelese are among the last groups of people that remain isolated from the modern world" is an independent clause.
      • "they vigorously reject all forms of contact with outsiders" is ALSO an independent clause!
  • Commas can follow a phrase or dependent clause.
    • Ex. Even though everyone was hungry, they chose to eat outside Disneyland to save money.
      • "Even though everyone was hungry" is a dependent clause, while "they chose…" is an independent clause.
    • Ex. Saddened to see their beloved principal retire, the seniors pulled an elaborate on the entire administrative staff.
      • Again, "saddened…” is a dependent clause, while "the seniors…" is an independent clause.
  • Commas can distinguish and divide items in a list/series.
    • WRONG: Ex. I love cows; pigs; and sheep.
    • CORRECT: Ex. I love cows, pigs, and sheep.
  • Commas can separate "distracting" supplementary thoughts from the main idea of the sentence.
    • WRONG: Ex. Aladdin an animated musical fantasy comedy film was first released almost 30 years ago
      • This looks too clunky! Is the subject "Aladdin" or "musical fantasy comedy film"? We want better clarity. 
    • CORRECT: Ex. Aladdin, an animated musical fantasy comedy film, was first released almost 30 years ago.
      • Looks better, right?
Sample Question: Percy Jackson and the Olympians; a Greek mythology young adult series by the illustrious Rick Riordan, was a complete hit.
(A) NO CHANGE
(B) Percy Jackson and the Olympians; a Greek mythology young adult series by the illustrious Rick Riordan; was a complete hit.
(C) Percy Jackson and the Olympians, a Greek mythology young adult series by the illustrious Rick Riordan, was a complete hit.
(D) Percy Jackson and the Olympians a Greek mythology young adult series by the illustrious Rick Riordan was a complete hit.
ANSWER: (C). Remember, we only use semicolons to separate two independent clauses, and "a Greek mythology young adult series by the illustrious Rick Riordan" is NOT an independent clause. Even if you didn't know that tidbit of information, you can eliminate choice (B) since we want to be consistent with our punctuations (can't use a comma and a dash for the same thought!). Choice (D) is a little too clunky. This leaves us with choice (C)!
  • Remember, we only want the commas covering the non-essential, supplementary parts of the main idea.
    • WRONG: Ex. Sitting on the bleachers is artist, Bob Ross, as the game goes on.
    • CORRECT: Ex. Sitting on the bleachers is artist Bob Ross as the game goes on.
      • Who exactly is the artist? "Bob Ross," in this case, is essential to complete the sentence. Hence, we don't need the commas here.
  • One last thing: we use commas to set apart transition words.
    • WRONG: Ex. The cat enjoys playing fetch; the dog however hates the outdoors.
    • CORRECT: Ex. The cat enjoys playing fetch; the dog, however, hates the outdoors.
    • ALTERNATIVE, CORRECT: Ex. The cat enjoys playing fetch; however, the dog hates the outdoors.
      • We have to separate words like "however," "unlike," and other words and phrases that detract from the main idea.
      • Also noticed how we used a semicolon to separate the idea with the cat and the idea with the dog?
  • We use colons (:) after independent clauses to indicate a list/series, another clarifying independent clause, or a saying.
    • Ex. Terry posted his bucket list of must-eats on Facebook: M&M smores, pigs-in-a-blanket, and calzones.
    • Ex. The valedictorian wrapped up his speech with an iconic ending: "Shoot for the stars and land on the moon."
    • Ex. Jamestown is a quaint little town: people enjoy visiting the local railway museum every now and then
      • We can also use a semicolon here… not a comma, though!
  • We use dashes (—) the same way we use commas within sentences: to separate phrases and clauses that interrupt the sentence by adding additional, supplementary detail(s).
  • Use one dash if the additional detail is by the conclusion of the sentence.
    • Ex. All our goods are manufactured in China—the industrial powerhouse of East Asia.
    • Ex. I enjoy traveling because you get to meet an eclectic bunch of people across the world—tourists, locals, and everyone in-between the spectrum.
  • Like commas, use two dashes if the additional detail is in the middle of the sentence.
    • Ex. My dream is to visit each of the American states—all 50 of them—and drive from coast to coast.
    • Ex. It is quite interesting to find out that my theatre professor—a retired black belt holder—was able to fend off an intruder at night.

C. Possessive Nouns and Pronouns 👻

🌰 What the College Board says: Recognizing and correcting inappropriate uses of possessive nouns and pronouns and deciding between plural and possessive forms
What It Basically Means: Plural vs. possessive: does the apostrophe come before or after the "s"?
🤔 What You Need to Remember:
  • Plural form: Usually followed by a verb!
    • WRONG: Cows' use their spots to attract potential mates.
    • CORRECT: Cows use their spots to attract potential mates.
  • Possessive form: Usually followed by a noun object!
    • WRONG: My cats toy is worn out and unrecognizable.
    • CORRECT: My cat's toy is worn out and unrecognizable.
  • Plural form: If collective, followed by "of ___," and/or not followed by a noun object.
    • WRONG: The groups' of tourists have wandered aimlessly around Disneyland.
    • CORRECT: The groups of tourists have wandered aimlessly around Disneyland.

D. Items in a Series 🌈

🌰 What the College Board says: Using commas and sometimes semicolons to separate elements in lists
What It Basically Means: Separate your grocery lists with commas or semicolons!
🤔 What You Need to Remember:
  • If you're listing a set of items, actions, or other things, you CANNOT use a comma and a semicolon in the same sentence. Consistency is key!
    • WRONG: Hyrum went bobsledding; found a grizzly bear, and ate smores. 
    • CORRECT: Hyrum went bobsledding, found a grizzly bear, and ate smores.
  • Here's the exception: [city], [country]. This way, semicolons help distinguish one country from another.
    • WRONG: My top three favorite places are Jeju, South Korea, Bali, Indonesia, and Seattle, United States.
    • CORRECT: My top three favorite places are Jeju, South Korea; Bali, Indonesia; and Seattle, United States.

E. Nonrestrictive and Parenthetical Elements ⛔

🌰 What the College Board says: Using punctuation to set off nonessential sentence elements and recognizing and correcting cases in which punctuation is wrongly used to set off essential sentence elements
What It Basically Means: Again, you'd want to stay consistent with the punctuation you use within sentences.
🤔 What You Need to Remember:
  • Don't use a "—" to finish a nonessential phrase that started with "," (or vice versa).
    • WRONG: Ex. Game of Thrones, the most brutal and graphic show I have ever watched—turned out to be an interesting watch.
    • CORRECT: Ex. Game of Thrones, the most brutal and graphic show I have ever watched, turned out to be an interesting watch.
  • Likewise, you might see sentences that are missing a comma or dash in either end of the phrase (if within the sentence). Don't be shy–add them! Here’s an example from Khan Academy:
    • WRONG: Ex. The Boston Symphony a world-renowned orchestra—played Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture
    • CORRECT: Ex. The Boston Symphony—a world-renowned orchestra—played Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

F. Unnecessary Punctuation 🤦‍♂️

🌰 What the College Board says: Recognizing and eliminating unneeded punctuation
What It Basically Means: Getting rid of the unnecessary (when it comes to punctuation). See an extra comma or semicolon? Take it out 👋!
🤔 What You Need to Remember:
  • This is another section that actually works best with your instinct. Imagine reading the sentence aloud. If you feel like the pauses you make due to the commas or periods feel awkward, there's a chance that you're right.
    • WRONG: Ex. It is necessary to wear your helmets, while riding the safari van.
    • CORRECT: Ex. It is necessary to wear your helmets while riding the safari van.
    • WRONG: Ex. Mr. Hemsworth told us to make revisions: with effort, patience, and dedication 
    • CORRECT: Ex. Mr. Hemsworth told us to make revisions with effort, patience, and dedication
    • WRONG: Ex. California is home to multiple tourist attractions, however, it also is a hub for deadly wildfires.
    • CORRECT: Ex. California is home to multiple tourist attractions; however, it also is a hub for deadly wildfires.
    • WRONG: Ex. Mordecai told Twilight Sparkles about the beauty of airplanes in the night sky; expressing it through a heartfelt song.
    • CORRECT: Ex. Mordecai told Twilight Sparkles about the beauty of airplanes in the night sky, expressing it through a heartfelt song.

Conclusion

...aaaaaand that's a wrap! Remember that this guide isn't meant to be something to digest in one sitting. Take your time to focus on areas you need to improve on. In no time, you'll be a grammar wizard—ready to take on the real world with the power of punctuations, clauses, and verb tenses. You got this! 🌟
In fact, this is going to be you when you mark up every other page of the Grammar Convention chunk of the SAT Language + Writing section:
https://media.giphy.com/media/3MaqUBQLnKBH1qfK9Y/giphy.gif?cid=ecf05e47jdl0f38un1nzir7uizia4w15kq69subso4oggvgp&rid=giphy.gif&ct=g

GIF from Giphy.

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