Simple is Usually Better

ACT English Tutorial

Simple is Usually Better

Intro

When taking the English portion of the ACT, students will run into questions in which a sentence is grammatically incorrect and they will need to choose the best option to change it. Often, two of these answers are actually grammatically correct, however, one will be more simple, and one will often add details or extra words. While the most important thing is to choose the option that is grammatically correct, if one runs into this problem, the test is looking for the simplest option. If in doubt, always choose the simpler answer when fixing a grammatically incorrect sentence.

Sample Problem

Choose the best option for fixing this sentence. “Knowing many things; my father is usually the person I ask when I have a question.”

“My father, who knows many things, is usually the person I ask when I have a question.


“Being my father who knows many things, I usually ask him when I have a question.”


“When I have a question, I usually ask my father.”


Fine as is.


“Usually the person, my father, is who I ask when I have a question.”


Solution

1. The clause in the first sentence should not be separated by a semi-colon. (Not fine as is.)
2. “Being my father…” is incorrect because the clause relates to the subject. In other words, the sentence is saying “I, being my father who knows many things…” which is incorrect.
3. “Usually the person…” is incorrect because the subject should be “my father” and “usually the person” is unnecessary and should be omitted.
4. “My father, who knows…” is grammatically correct, however, “When I have a question…” is also grammatically correct and is simpler. Therefore, “When I have a question, I usually ask my father.” is the best option to change this sentence to.



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