Link of the Day

This "Brief History of The Simpsons" includes an introductory list of the characters and a few ways the show has interacted with the world outside TV. Information like that found in this article can turn a mediocre example (e.g., "In one episode of The Simpsons...") into an excellent one (e.g. a discussion of Marge Simpson's correspondence with First Lady Barbara Bush in late 1990). 

Writing: Identifying Sentence Errors

The following sentence contains either a single error or no error at all. If the sentence contains an error, select the one underlined part that must be changed to make the sentence correct. If the sentence contains no error, select choice E. 

Always read the sentence first to get a general feel for how it sounds. If something seems strange or wrong, start with the part of the sentence that caught your attention. Check that segment against what you know of standard English grammar. If nothing stands out to you, check all four underlined sections. When you find one that breaks the rules, mark it.

From its modest beginnings as a series of brief vignettes to its establishment as the longest-running prime-time animated series on television, The Simpsons transformed the way both the audiences and television programmers view the animated sitcom. No error
Does anything sound odd? If not, don't worry, just check each answer choice individually.

A) "as" is used in this sentence as a preposition to introduce a modifying phrase, "as a series of brief vignettes." These two prepositional phrases modify the word "beginnings." "As" is used correctly.

B) "its establishment as" contains three words: a pronoun, a noun, and the versatile word "as," which again functions as a preposition here. This maintains the parallelism required by the idiom "from X to Y," in which the words replacing X and those replacing Y must have matching syntax. The pronoun, "its," is a source of difficulty for many students because of its homophone friend, "it's." The easiest way to tell whether "its" or "it's" is correct is to try to replace the word with "it is." If "it is" makes sense, then the contraction is correct; otherwise, you need "its." In this case, "From its (it is?) modest beginnings to it is establishment" clearly does not make sense. "Its," no apostrophe, is needed in both cases. Rule out choice B.

C) "transformed" is the main verb of this sentence. Since it is past-tense, subject-verb agreement questions are a non issue. But is the past-tense usage correct? Obviously, the cultural effects of The Simpsons have already taken effect, so the "transformation" is in the past. C is used correctly, so eliminate it.

D) "both the" introduces an idiomatic expression, "both X and Y." As with "from X to Y," the words that fill in for X and Y must be parallel. The word "the" is the first word that fills in for X. Look immediately after "and" to find the Y words: "television programmers." The word "the" is missing! Without correct parallelism, this idiom is incorrect. The answer is D.

On, 47% of responses were correct.

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