You’ve already seen three ways SHSAT writers on the ELA might try to trip you up on revising clumsy words (see “Clumsy Words, Part 1”). Clumsy words can change the logic, structure, and meaning of a sentence, and so using clumsy word phrasing is an easy way for the test writers to pull a fast one on you. But, you’re up on your SHSAT revising power, and now you’re going to take that knowledge and figure out the best way to revise on the test to fix clumsy word choices.
Power Up Pro Tips: Fixing Clumsy Words for SHSAT Revising
- Fix words that are used the wrong way.
Part of the revisions you’ll have to make will include fixing clumsy words that have been used in the wrong way. When the SHSAT asks you to “correct a misplaced modifier”, you’ll have to pick out the clumsy sentence that ends up meaning something different than what was intended because of the arrangement of words. Here’s a great example, taken from a practice test:
(1) Established in 1946, the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) contains the most prominent collection of historical aircraft in the world. (2) As one of the many museums and landmarks of the Smithsonian Institution, millions of people from around the world visit NASM each year. (3) Over the years, NASM has undergone several renovations and major reconstruction to accommodate more visitors and exhibits. (4) In addition to being a popular Washington, D.C., tourist destination, NASM is home to a research center for terrestrial and planetary science.
Which sentence should be revised to correct a misplaced modifier?
- sentence 1
- B. sentence 2
- sentence 3
- sentence 4
The way you fix these types of questions, starts with seeing which sentence is clumsy. Sentence 1 is straightforward—it doesn’t include words you don’t know and is written in an active voice. Sentence 2 is clumsy, though. It starts with a passive voice “As one of the many museums and landmarks”, and that qualifier seems to point to “millions of people”. But, we wouldn’t make a comparison of millions of people to museums and landmarks. So, we would need to revise this sentence to correct the meaning of it. (The good news for these questions is that you only have to pick out which sentence needs to be revised. In other questions, you may have to choose the best revision.)
- Fix noun/verb agreement.
You know you’re looking for the most clear, straightforward revision on the SHSAT answers. That means you will be careful to avoid choosing answers with word you don’t know (if possible), you won’t pick the longest revised answer just because it sounds smart, and you are going to double-check to make sure your revised responses have correct grammar. It can be easy to miss a verb that doesn’t fit a subject, so make sure the first thing you do on revisions is to double-check the responses for correct grammar. Here’s a great example, taken from an SHSAT practice exam:
Since college admissions are highly competitive, many students began planning for the admissions process while they attend middle school rather than waiting until they enter high school.
Which edit should be made to correct this sentence?
- change are to will be
- change began to begin
- change attend to had attended
- change enter to entered
The question type asks you to make an edit to the passage, rather than identifying which part of a sentence (or which sentence) contains an error. So, you’ll have to use your power up skills to fix this text—but you’re starting off by looking for grammatical errors. Read the passage and circle whatever is unclear. There are two sections of this passage you could circle: first, passages shouldn’t start off with “since” or “because”, because it can lead to unclear writing. (Of course, the answer choices don’t include revising the intro to this text, so that won’t be one you’ll have to worry about—but you’re still aware of it, just in case that was a possible answer choice.) The second error you should have circled was “began planning”. Why? The “began planning” verb phrase doesn’t match the later phrase “while they attend middle school”. “While they attend middle” is present tense, and “began planning” is past tense. So, our correct answer needs to fix this easy grammar mistake. That means the correct answer is B.
- Fix passages when you combine them by only using statements that make the passage clear.
The other kind of edit you have to perform on clumsy wording is to combine a group of sentences to make the most sense. Don’t be intimidated! Think about the sentences in your own words before you combine them. Focus on what is most important in the sentences. Strike out anything that is confusing! Here’s another example, also taken from a practice exam:
Read these sentences.
(1) Monarch butterflies are common in the United States.
(2) Monarch butterflies are recognizable by their orange-and-black wings.
(3) Monarch butterflies travel thousands of miles when they migrate to warmer climates in the fall.
What is the best way to combine these sentences?
Because they are common in the United States, monarch butterflies are recognizable by their orange and-black wings and travel thousands of miles when they migrate to warmer climates in the fall.
- By traveling thousands of miles when they migrate to warmer climates in the fall and being common in the United States, monarch butterflies are recognizable by their orange-and-black wings.
- Although they are common in the United States, monarch butterflies, which are
recognizable by their orange-and-black wings, travel thousands of miles when they migrate to warmer climates in the fall.
- Monarch butterflies, common in the United States and recognizable by their orange-and-black wings, travel thousands of miles when they migrate to warmer climates in the fall.
Eliminate any choice that contains grammatical errors, is passive, and doesn’t make logical sense. If you do this, you’ll automatically be able to strike out A and B. Answer A starts out with “Because they are”, and you already know it isn’t clear to start a sentence with “because” or “since”. Answer B starts with a preposition, “by traveling”, so you know it isn’t the clearest way of combining these sentences. Guess what? You’re already 50% closer to a correct answer! Answer D is much clearer. It doesn’t begin with a negative—and the negative “although they are common in the United States” doesn’t relate at all to whether monarchs travel thousands of miles. Those two ideas don’t connect logically. But, D is clear, logically is connected, and contains all of the ideas of the three texts.
Grammar leads the way to even the most difficult of SHSAT passages. The best-written texts are going to contain the correct answers. Stick to these three fixes, and you will *rock* the revising of the ELA editing portion of the SHSAT.