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Modifiers

Improving Sentences

Part or all of the following sentence is underlined; beneath the sentence are five ways of phrasing the underlined material. Select the option that produces the best sentence. If you think the original phrasing produces a better sentence than any of the alternatives, select choice A.  

Read the original sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Then evaluate the underlined portion of the sentence using the Big 8 Grammar Rules that are taught in Knowsys classes.  Focus on the first error that you find to help you eliminate wrong answer choices.

Clara Barton founded the American branch of the Red Cross, a nurse who was sometimes called the “angel of the battlefield.”

This sentence should sound odd to you the first time that you read it.  You know that Clara Barton founded the American branch of the Red Cross, but how does she relate to “a nurse who was sometimes called the ‘angel of the battlefield?’” When you first read the sentence, it sounds as if that nurse is a new person rather than Clara Barton.  How can you fix this sentence?  The phrase following the comma modifies Clara Barton; it explains a little more about her.  Modifiers are part of the Knowsys Big 8 Grammar Rules.  The first rule that you learn about modifiers is to place the modifier as close as possible to the words that they modify.  You cannot move the modifying phrase after the comma because it is not underlined.  Therefore, you will have to move the subject, Clara Barton, closer to the modifying phrase.  Look down at your answer choices.

(A) Clara Barton founded the American branch of the Red Cross,
(B) The founder of the American branch of the Red Cross was Clara Barton,
(C) It was Clara Barton founding the American branch of the Red Cross,
(D) Clara Barton, who founded the American branch of the Red Cross, she was
(E) In founding the American branch of the Red Cross, Clara Barton was

(A)  You do not need to reread this choice because it matches the original sentence, which has an error.  Eliminate it.

(B) This sentence moves Clara Barton as close as possible to the phrase that modifies her, matching your prediction about how to improve the sentence.  Keep this answer choice and quickly check your other options.

(C)  This choice does not fix the fact that Clara Barton is separated from the phrase that modifies her.  It also introduces an expletive construction: “it was.”  Avoid expletive constructions whenever possible.  Eliminate this choice.

(D)  This sentence contains a relative clause that is set off by two commas.  You should be able to ignore the information between the commas and have a complete sentence.  However, when you ignore the relative clause in this sentence, you will see an unnecessary pronoun: "Clara Barton she was a nurse who was sometimes called the “angel of the battlefield.”"  Eliminate this choice.

(E)  This answer is more grammatically correct than some of the other options, but it changes the meaning of the sentence.  This choice makes it sound as if Clara Barton earned her nickname, “the angel of the battlefield,” and became a nurse by founding an organization.  Does that make sense?  No!  She earned the nickname for helping wounded soldiers, and she was a nurse before she founded the Red Cross.

The correct answer is (B).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 69% of the responses were correct.

For more help with SAT writing, visit www.myknowsys.com!