Effective Tips to Solve Sentence Improvement Questions
Sentence Improvement, as the name indicates, is a variation of Spotting Errors. You are given a sentence in which a word or a phrase is highlighted and a number of substitutes are given.
Even a minute error such as the error in 'voice' or 'of superfluous expression' is enough to disqualify that sentence. You are supposed to locate the error and find the correct option among the given alternatives, after which a sentence becomes grammatically and contextually correct.
However, these types of questions can be attempted only if an individual is comprehensively equipped with the knowledge of common errors, vocabulary, and correct use of phrases, and the overall comprehension of rules of grammar.
A strategic approach to getting command over Sentence Improvement
Identify the subject, verb, prepositions, etc. Sometimes this is where the error lies. A grammatically correct sentence is not always correct. A subtle error can twist the overall meaning of the sentence. Match the verb with the subject.
For example: ‘Raman along with his colleagues are visiting for an audit’
In this sentence when you will read at first go everything will sound good. But the sentence has an error of subject-verb agreement. Here, the subject is Raman and not his colleagues. So, ‘are’ needs to be replaced with ‘is’ to make the sentence grammatically and contextually correct.
If the subjects are joined by as well as, with, along with, together with, and not, in addition to, but, besides, except, rather than, accompanied by, like, unlike, no less than, nothing but, led by, headed by, guided by, controlled by, governed by, etc. Then the verb will agree with the first subject.
For example: 'The teacher, as well as his wife, were invited'.
‘Were’ needs to be replaced with ‘was’ to make the sentence grammatically correct. This is because the verb will agree with the first subject. Here, the first subject is singular, so the verb used will be singular.
If two subjects are joined by neither-nor, either-or, not only-but also, nor, or, none but, etc., then the verb will agree with the nearest subject.
Before looking at the options try to solve them on your own. Use the learning of your grammar and try to locate it yourself. This will enhance your learning and help you to locate the answer in a fraction of a second.
For example: 'No sooner he had completed his first novel than he fell seriously ill'.
Without going through the options, you can easily identify that there is a misplacement of subject and verb. The verb will come before the subject.
Identify whether there is any error in the sentence or not. Sometimes, the sentence looks fine on reading but don’t just assume. Browse through options and keep on looking for the better option. Also, don’t unnecessarily look for errors. Sometimes the correct statement is also given.
For example: ‘My brother is looking forward to meeting his employer tomorrow’.
When you read at first go, you will automatically realize that ‘to’ is followed by the first form of the verb and hence is incorrect. But this sentence is correct as in this sentence, the phrase ‘to look forward to’ means to anticipate and hence it requires a direct object i.e. the gerund form of the verb i.e. ‘meeting’.
Follow the process of reverse engineering i.e. try working with options. Try to eliminate options by spotting the silly errors that have been created to confuse the examinee. Sometimes solving a question is difficult but at the same time eliminating errors will save a lot of time.
Look for redundancy in the sentence. Try to find out the words which can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence. For example: Suppose if, Cousin brother/sister, Consensus opinion, Consort husband /wife, final conclusion, kindly requested, return back, etc. In such cases, the sentence will sound grammatically correct but there is an error of superfluous expression.
For example: ‘Rohit topped in the examination held 6 months back. I knew this because he is my cousin's brother’.
The statement is grammatically correct but contextually incorrect. This is because the use of ‘brother’ is superfluous. ‘Cousin’ itself means brother/sister.
Give a special focus to modifiers i.e. how adjectives and adverbs are used. Be careful with the pronouns. Sometimes, ‘it’ is being used for living beings and ‘him/her’ for non – living.
For example: ‘One is often pleased with himself’.
The possessive form of the pronoun ‘one’ is ‘oneself’. So the phrase ‘with himself’ needs to be replaced with ‘with oneself’ to make the sentence grammatically correct.
If the idioms or phrases are being used, check whether they are correct or not. If the idiom sounds good then check whether it is relevant with the context.
For example: 'There is many a slip between the cup and lip'.
The phrase ‘between the cup and lip’ needs to be replaced with ‘between the cup and the lip’. It means a situation where things did not happen at the last minute the way they were expected to due to unforeseen reasons.
Focus on vocabulary, spellings and the confusing words like, ‘stationary/stationery’, ‘assent/ascent/accent’, ‘advice/advise’, ‘adapt/adept/adopt’, etc. These words are similar in sound but different in meanings and usage. Check for what it has been used and for which parts of speech i.e. ‘advice’ is a noun while ‘advice’ is a verb.
For example: 'My father has given his ascent for my long tour'.
‘Ascent’ means an upward moment and is incorrect as per the meaning of the sentence. ‘Accent’ means to emphasize a particular feature; ‘Approof’ means a trial, and ‘Assent’ means to give an expression of approval or agreement. Thus, ‘Ascent’ needs to be replaced with ‘Assent’
Check the usage of ‘since/for’, ‘much/many’, ‘to/into’, ‘but/because’, ‘until/unless’, etc.
For example: 'Unless you are not very careful, you will run into debt'.
‘Unless’ is used to denote the condition i.e. ‘If’…… ‘Not’. So, again the use of the negative word ‘not’ is superfluous. So, the phrase, ‘are not very’ needs to be replaced with ‘are very’ to make the sentence grammatically correct.
Look for the error in question tag. If the sentence is positive then the tag must be negative and vice versa. The pronoun is being used irrespective of what the subject is.
For example: 'We can go out whenever we choose to, isn’t it?'
The question tag ‘isn’t it’ needs to be replaced with ‘can’t we’. This is because the sentence and the question tag must be in the same tense and the same pronoun is to be used in the question tag.
So, the rules discussed above followed, with an example, will help you solve a maximum number of questions but at the same time, complete knowledge of grammar and vocabulary is a must. Also, learning by practicing is the key to success. Just cramming the rules will take you nowhere. Apply the same on paper to come up with flying colors.