Style questions generally concern effective word choice.
They often ask you to choose the most appropriate word for a sentence
in terms of its tone and clarity. Other times, they’ll ask you to
eliminate redundant words or phrases. In the next section, we discuss
the following style topics:
Word Choice and Identifying Tone
The ACT writers will test you on your ability to spot
redundant statements. Redundant statements say the same thing twice,
and you should always avoid redundancy on the English Test (in life
too, if possible). For example,
WRONG: The diner
closes at 3 a.m. in the morning.
RIGHT: The diner closes at 3 a.m.
“In the morning” is redundant because it is implied in
“a.m.” Here’s another example of a redundant statement:
WRONG: In my opinion, I think we
should go get some food.
“I think” and “In my opinion” mean the same thing, so
you can eliminate one of the phrases from the sentence:
RIGHT: In my opinion, we should go
get some food.
ALSO RIGHT: I think we should go get some food.
Either one of those phrases gets the point across; using
both merely makes the sentence cumbersome.
Redundancy questions almost always give you the option
to “OMIT the underlined portion.” If you spot a phrase or word that
means the same thing as the underlined portion, then you should
always choose to “OMIT.” (For more on “OMIT,” refer to “If the Phrase Doesn’t
Fit, You Must ‘OMIT’” on p. .)
Appropriate Word Choice and Identifying Tone
Identifying the appropriate word choice can be as simple
as figuring out whether a sentence should use the word “their,”
“there,” or “they’re.” But word choice can also be more complicated,
involving many words working together to create a tone. For example,
the sentence “Lloyd George rocks!” probably does not belong in an
essay on World War I. It doesn’t fit because it’s written in a casual,
slangy tone, and history essays are generally neither casual nor
slangy. The sentence might belong, however, in a passage on your
awesome new friend, Lloyd George.
The content of a passage will generally give you a clue
about the appropriate tone. Essays on history and culture will probably
be written in a fairly formal style—a style that omits youthful
slang, casual contractions, and familiar personal pronouns (such
as “I” and “you”). A personal essay on your experiences driving
a bulldozer, on your great-grandmother, or on your new skateboard
calls for a relatively informal style of writing. These personal
essays can exhibit varying degrees of informality. An essay by a
young writer may be more colloquial and relaxed than an essay by
a mature writer recalling past experiences.
Tone is one of the most important elements in correctly
answering word choice questions. You will encounter quite a few
questions that look like this:
|During the Great War, the British Public believed|
|that Lloyd George || rocks! || He was widely admired|
| ||7|| ||7. ||A. ||NO CHANGE|
|C. ||was an effective political|
|D. ||had the ability to unify the|
|government and thus to unify|
|for his ability to unify the government and thus|
Because we already told you that informality does not
belong in a history essay, you can immediately eliminate choices
A and B, even though B correctly changes the verb tense. If you
read the section above, you should also be able to eliminate D because
it is redundant—it repeats the information given in the next sentence.
That leaves the correct answer, C.