Writing: 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 entire original sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Then evaluate the underlined portion using the Big 8 grammar rules.  Use the first error that you find to quickly eliminate wrong answer choices.

After serving two terms in the Texas State Senate, Barbara Jordan’s election to the United States House of Representatives, where she served from 1973 to 1979.

One of the rules of modifiers is that when you have an introductory phrase followed by a comma, the very next independent noun must be the subject of that phrase.  However, instead of the name of the person who served, Barbara Jordan, this sentence follows the comma with “Barbara Jordan’s election.”  There is no way that the election served two terms!  Mark this error and look down at your answer choices.

(A) Barbara Jordan’s election
(B) it was Barbara Jordan who was elected
(C) it was Barbara Jordan’s election
(D) Barbara Jordan had been elected
(E) Barbara Jordan was elected

(A) Eliminate this choice without reading it because it matches the original sentence.

(B) A person who serves is not an “it.”  This sentence does not lead with Jordan’s name as you know that it ought to.  In fact, “it was” is called an expletive construction and your Knowsys book tells you to avoid these whenever possible.  Eliminate this answer choice.

(C) Eliminate this answer choice for the same reasons as you eliminated the previous ones.  Notice that this answer choice also fails to provide an antecedent for the pronoun “she,” another problem with the original sentence.

(D) This choice fixes the modifier problem that you found, but the phrase “had been elected” is unnecessarily wordy.  It doesn't make sense to say that after doing one thing, a person had been something else.  The word “been” implies ongoing action, but you are looking for something that happened after something else.  Eliminate this choice.

(E) This choice is short, clear, and concise.  It is passive, but Barbara Jordan could not actively elect herself, she had to depend on others to do that.  This is an appropriate use of the passive voice.

The correct answer is (E).

On, 75% of the responses were correct.

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