Sentence Correction: Concepts and Tricks

Sentence correction/Error Spotting is the most important and scoring area in the verbal ability portion. Thus, it forms a critical part of the competitive exams. Generally, two or three questions are asked. In this type, a sentence, with a portion of it underlined, is given. One has to pick up the right option, which is grammatically correct. If no change is required then option 1, same as the underlined part, is the answer.
There are a few types of questions asked under this section and these are as follows:
  1. Subject-verb agreement
  2. Modifiers
  3. Parallelism
  4. Pronoun reference error
  5. Diction
  6. Redundancy
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In order to score well one has to be aware of all the types mentioned above.
A brief definition of each type with an example is given below:
1. Subject – verb agreement: In any sentence, the verb should agree with the subject in person as well as in number. In other words if subject is singular then verb should also be singular and if subject is plural then verb should also be plural.  
For example ‘he plays’ and they play’. There are two important tricks to correct these types of question and these are ‘F.S.R’ i.e. first or farthest subject rule and second is 'N.S.R' i.e. ‘nearest subject rule’.
‘Not only the principal but also the teachers (is/are) playing’. In this example the correct form of the verb is ‘are’ as it is based on nearest subject rule.
‘The Principal, as well as the teachers, (is/are) playing’. In this example the correct form of the verb here will be ‘is’ as the question is based on F.S.R or the first subject rule.
2. Modifier:  It can be a word or phrase which is used to modify any other word or a phrase.
In this the parts of speech that are considered ‘modifiers’ are 
a. ‘Adjectives’ as they are used to modify either nouns or pronouns.
b. ‘Adverbs’ as they are used to modify adjectives, adverbs, and verbs
Example: Chic and smart, the travel agency could not help admiring the model’s clothes.
In the above sentence, chic and smart seem to refer to Travel Agency, though they were meant to refer to the Model’s clothes.
The correct sentence would be:
The travel agency could not help admiring the model’s chic and smart clothes.
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c. ‘Participles’ as they are used to modify nouns.
Example: Walking down the road, my hat flew off.
In the above sentence, it seems as if the hat was walking down the road and it flew, thus we need to specify who was walking down the road.
The correct sentence should be:
While walking down the road, my hat flew off.
3. Parallelism: If a sentence expresses many ideas that are similar to each other, they should be presented in parallel constructions i.e. they should be in the same grammatical form.
Example: He desired to make a lot of money and that he might earn a good reputation.
In the above example the sentence presents two same ideas but the grammatical form is different.
Therefore the correct sentence should be:
He desired to make a lot of money and to earn a good reputation.
4. Pronoun reference error: A pronoun is a word used to stand for (or take the place of) a noun.
A pronoun should refer clearly to one, clear, unmistakable noun coming before the pronoun.  This noun is called the pronoun’s antecedent.
Unfortunately, it is very easy to create a sentence that uses a pronoun WITHOUT a clear, unmistakable noun antecedent.
Example: The minister met the manager and he recognized him.
In this sentence"he" is neither referring to the minister nor the manager, hence the sentence can be
corrected in two ways:
In this sentence
  • The minister met the manager who recognized him.
  • The minister met the manager and recognized him.
5. Diction: An incorrect choice of words makes the sentence erroneous. The mistakes could be in the usage of simple words - later and latter, its and it’s, lie and lay, and the like. There can be confusion in words that sound alike - adapt and adept, principal and principle, affront and confront etc. The only way to tackle these is to know the meanings of these words.
6. Redundancy: Avoid needless repetition of a fact or an idea
Example: We shall combine the three departments into one.
In this sentence it has been written combine the three departments into one, but whenever things are combined , we always get one thing only .Thus the correct sentence is:
We shall combine the three departments.
Sentence Correction Questions

Directions: Select the correct option to replace the underlined part of the sentence given in the questions.

1. The President of Costa Rica, along with two vice-presidents, are elected for a four-year term by the people.

  1. are elected for a four-year term by the people.
  2. are elected, by the people, for a four-year term.
  3. is elected for a four-year term by the people.
  4. are elected for four-year terms by the people.
  5. is elected for four-year terms by the people.

Here, the answer will be option 3 as it uses the correct the subject-verb agreement rule that with "The President" the singular verb "is" will be used.

2. Previously thought to have been extinct, a team of biologists rediscovered the New Caledonia crested gecko in 1994.

  1. a team of biologists rediscovered the New Caledonia crested gecko in 1994.
  2. a team of biologists, in 1994, rediscovered the New Caledonia crested gecko.
  3. in 1994 the New Caledonia crested gecko was rediscovered by a team of biologists.
  4. and discovered by a team of biologists in 1994 was the New Caledonia crested gecko.
  5. the New Caledonia crested gecko was rediscovered by a team of biologists in 1994.

The correct answer is option 5 as the modifier extinct is used for the New Caledonia crested gecko and not the team of biologists.

Error Spotting/Sentence Correction: Key Learning

  • Spotting the error is the common area in every entrance test that can make or mar your score. So, the given article will surely help you to understand the tips to attempt such questions.
  • As the saying goes, Practice makes a man perfect, so is the case with this exercise.

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