23 April 2011

Non-essential clauses

Non-essential clauses must always be surrounded by commas. The most common error the ACT likes to throw at you is simply to remove one of these commas. Remember: if the clause can be taken out of the sentence, you need both of those commas. If either of them is missing, the sentence cannot be correct.

Correct: My favorite book, which I have read nearly ten times, is Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

Incorrect: My favorite book, which I have read nearly ten times is Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

Incorrect: My favorite book which I have read nearly ten times, is Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

One thing to be aware of on the ACT is that non-essential elements can be both quite long and very, very short. As in one or two words (very often transitions such as however, moreover, or in fact). The important thing to remember is that regardless of length, the rule stays the same: if you can take the word or phrase out of the sentence and the sentence still makes sense, you need both commas. No exceptions.

Correct: I enjoy reading long Russian novels. I also, however, enjoy reading comic books.

Incorrect: I enjoy reading long Russian novels. I also however, enjoy reading comic books.

Incorrect: I enjoy reading long Russian novels. I also, however enjoy reading comic books.

This error usually shows up multiple times on a given test, so knowing the rule cold can sometimes get you an easy two or three points.

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