Posts tagged with: Error ID

(Although) (we arrived) at the skating rink together, mariah stayed two hours (longer) than I did because she needed (to rehearse) a new routine. (No Error)

There’s no error here. Where did you think there was one?

I got a comment on an old post about Error ID strategies (one of the first posts I ever put up) asking me to clarify the relationship between Comparison Errors and possession. I figured that, since it’s been a while since I wrote about writing at all, I’d oblige, — and go a bit further. I aim to please, you know.

The easiest and snappiest way to describe a comparison error is to say that it compares apples to oranges. If you’re faced with a sentence that doesn’t compare two things of the same kind, you’re faced with a faulty comparison and you need to either mark it as the error (in Error ID) or fix it (in Sentence Improvement).

Some faulty comparisons examples:

  • The battery in my new laptop is way better than my old computer, which had to stay plugged in all the time.
  • I like both singers, but Josh Ritter’s music moves me in a way that Morrissey does not.
  • Unlike Paula, who has an A+ in the class, Eric’s history textbook looks like it hasn’t been opened all year.
  • Because I stubbed my toe on the way to the bathroom the other night, my left foot’s big toenail is a different color than my right foot.
  • Often referred to simply as The Boss, Bruce Springsteen holds up against any other songwriter’s lyrics.

Because faulty comparisons are fairly easy to spot in simple sentences, the writers of the SAT will usually hide them in more complex sentences, and will often try to slip one by you by comparing someone’s stuff to someone else. Here are the same sentences as above, with the actual things being compared in underlined and in bold.

  • The battery in my new laptop is way better than my old computer, which had to stay plugged in all the time.
  • I like both singers, but Josh Ritter’s music moves me in a way that Morrissey does not.
  • Unlike Paula, who has an A+ in the class, Eric’s history textbook looks like it hasn’t been opened all year.
  • Because I stubbed my toe on the way to the bathroom the other night, my left foot’s big toenail is a different color than my right foot.
  • Often referred to simply as The Boss, Bruce Springsteen holds up against any other songwriter’s lyrics.

This is why I like to tell students to watch out anytime an “‘s” exists in a sentence. If that “‘s” indicates possession, there’s a decent chance that it’s setting up a faulty comparison between someone’s stuff, and someone else.

Let’s fix all those sentences, huh?

  • The battery in my new laptop is way better than my old computer‘s battery; my old computer had to stay plugged in all the time.
  • I like both singers, but Josh Ritter’s music moves me in a way that Morrissey‘s does not.
  • Unlike Paula, who has an A+ in the class, Eric appears not to have opened his history textbook all year.
  • Because I stubbed my toe on the way to the bathroom the other night, my left foot’s big toenail is a different color than is the one on my right foot.
  • Often referred to simply as The Boss, Bruce Springsteen holds up against any other songwriter.

Of course, there are many ways to fix each of these. What matters is that I’ve made all the comparisons consistent, and not created any other errors in the process.

Remember: always compare people to people and things to things; never compare a person to another person’s STUFF.

I had an interesting conversation with a colleague last night about the importance of having a process. The gist of his argument was this: it’s all well and good to understand what a run-on sentence is (for example), but there are lots of kids who know, objectively, what one is, and still miss run-on questions all the time. Top scorers don’t let any of those slip by because they have a process, and they stick to it.

I know I’ve spelled out processes for my students verbally a thousand times, but last night it occurred to me that I’d never tried to put one down on paper. After sitting down this morning and trying to create a flowchart for Error ID questions, I think I know why. Still, maybe this spaghetti mess is helpful?

I’m thinking of trying to do these for other question types, too. If I do, I’ll also try to tidy this one up a bit more, too. Thoughts?

You should be mechanical in checking every Error ID question for the following.

Verbs.

Start here.  If there is a verb underlined in the sentence, you need to check:

  1. Subject/Verb Agreement. The SAT’s favorite ways to trick you include:
    1. Prepositional phrases (The display case of trophies at the top of the stairs in my father’s house is very old.)
    2. Appositives (The display case, an enclosure of glass and wood in which my father showcases his many awards, is very old.)
    3. Subject after verb (Hidden in the back of the display case are my father’s high school report cards.)
    4. Compound subjects (A baseball, a bat, and a catcher’s glove were found in the player’s closet.)
  2. Verb Tense. Often multiple tenses are appropriate for a particular sentence, and even though you might be able to imagine a different tense, the one that’s used is not wrong. Make sure, however, that the SAT isn’t using the present tense to discuss an event that very clearly happened in the past (i.e. a scientific discovery made in 1880). Also, make sure the tense plays nicely with the other, non-underlined verbs in the sentence.

 

Pronouns.

If the verbs are ok, you need to check all underlined pronouns.

  1. Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement. Common tricks:
    1. The use of “their” when the antecedent is singular (Every coach wants his or her team to win.)
    2. The use of non-personal pronouns for people (The book was about the lives of three teenagers, all of which whom grew up in New Orleans.)

 

Parallelism.

There are two very commonly tested parallelism rules, and then some miscellaneous things that you might see once in a while.

  1. Lists. If a sentence is listing two or more things, make sure every element in the list is parallel in every way.
    1. Verb conjugations (There are two ways Rick knows to kill zombies: to shoot them in the head or to set them on fire.)
    2. Mixing nouns and verbs (My favorite things are pizza, dogs, and going hiking hikes.
    3. Preposition use (A good vocabulary will take you far in your career, your education, and in your personal life.)
  2. Comparisons. Only like things can be compared to each other. For more info on this, see this post.
    1. Possession (Even though he is only a shoe salesman, Justin’s income is higher than that of his boss because he’s also an underground street fighter on the weekends.)
  3. Miscellaneous.  Here are some other things you might see.
    1. One vs. You (Before you go skydiving, you should do thorough equipment inspections.)
    2. Neither/nor (I enjoy neither hiking nor biking.)
    3. Either/or (I’d be happy with either mini-golf or bowling)
    4. Not only/but also (My boss was happy that not only did I increase sales in my district, but I also kept my company car spic and span.)