Improving Paragraphs Questions follow the progress of the passage. Although it makes sense to answer the questions in order, you may answer them in any order you wish. If you are good at spotting faulty sentences, answer the sentence-error questions before tackling the others. If you have a knack for answering specific questions, deal with those before coping with more general ones—those, say, that deal with relationships between paragraphs or with the passage as a whole. If a question stumps you, go on to the next one, but don’t forget to come back later and give it another try.

Sample Essay and Questions

[1] On the water, sailboats and motorboats go faster than canoes. [2] They also go faster in stores. [3] People are buying them in greater numbers than ever before. [4] Not only are they more fashionable but they give status to their owners. [5] Yet, I’ll take a canoe any time.

[6] For one thing, a canoe can last for more than thirty years. [7] Even if you get tired of it, you can sell it for a fairly large fraction of its original cost. [8] For example, a new aluminum canoe may cost about $600, but a used one costs about $500 or less. [9] In addition, a canoe has no moving parts to wear out. [10] Requiring almost no care at all, you only have to paint it every few years or bang out some dents if you ride it through rapids. [11] Some high-end canoes are made of canvas covering a sturdy wood frame, caned seats and copper and brass trim.

[12] Besides being economical, a canoe can be used in a variety of ways. [13] In the first place, you can use it in the ocean as well as on a tiny lake. [14] One can use it on rivers, too. [15] Marshes and small streams are fine for using a canoe. [16] As a result, wherever you go, there is bound to be a place for canoeing. [17] Not only can you take it anywhere, but you can go canoeing for a few hours or for weeks at a time. [18] In contrast to other boats, canoes don’t depend on wind or fuel. [19] Furthermore, you don’t have to waste time setting up or taking down a canoe. [20] Simply grab a paddle, and you’re off on your own.

1.   In the first paragraph the author’s primary purpose is to

(A)  inform the reader about several kinds of boats

(B)  provide evidence that boating is a popular pastime

(C)  poke fun at those who prefer sailboats to canoes

(D)  tell a personal story about boating

(E)  prepare the reader for an unexpected disclosure

Choice A is not a good answer because the paragraph is more about boaters than about boats. Eliminate choice B because the paragraph provides no real evidence that boating is a popular pastime. Neither choice C nor D is justified by the contents of the paragraph. Only choice E offers a reasonable answer. In fact, the paragraph deals favorably with sailboats and motorboats but ends with a slightly surprising statement—that the author prefers canoes. Choice E, therefore, is the best answer.

2.   Sentence 2 differs from other sentences in the first paragraph because it

(A)  emphasizes a major point of the essay

(B)  changes the meaning of words taken from a previous sentence

(C)  presents the writer’s personal opinion

(D)  changes the tone of the essay

(E) provides an important transition between the sentences that precede and follow it

Eliminate choice A because the sentence is unrelated to the essay’s main point. Choice C is wrong because sentence 2 states a fact that can be proved, not an opinion. Choice D is wrong because the tone of the essay has not yet been established, and choice E does not accurately describe the function of sentence 2. An analysis of the paragraph shows that the phrase go faster is used in both sentence 1 and sentence 2. In sentence 1, the phrase refers to the speed of boats on water. In sentence 2, it refers to the popularity of boats among consumers. Therefore, choice B is the best answer.

3.   Of the following, which is the best version of the following underlined portion of sentence 10?

Requiring almost no care at all, you only have to paint it every few years or bang out some dents if you ride it through rapids.

(A)  As it is now

(B)  Requiring little care, canoes need only to be painted

(C)  Requiring little care, paint is all it needs

(D)  Caring for it easily, you only have to paint it

(E)  Only paint it

The sentence needs revision because it contains an error in modification. Choice A is wrong because the phrase Requiring almost no care at all is a dangling participle that modifies you instead of canoes. Choice C is a variation of A. Choices D and E, although grammatically correct, make little sense in the context. Choice B, the only remaining choice, is the best answer.

4.   Which of the following should be done with sentence 11 (reproduced below)?

Some high-end canoes are made of canvas covering a sturdy wood frame, caned seats and copper and brass trim.

(A)  Insert the phrase “Speaking of costs” at the beginning.

(B)  Delete it; the sentence is irrelevant.

(C)  Insert it between sentence 8 and sentence 9.

(D)  Combine it with sentence 4.

(E)  Move it to the end of paragraph 1 (after sentence 5).

Because the sentence contains information about the materials used to build canoes, it does not fit logically anywhere in the essay. The phrase suggested in choice A attempts to establish a link between the sentence and the second paragraph, but the writer is not discussing costs at that point in the essay. Therefore, choice B is the best answer.

5.   In context, which is the best way to revise and combine sentences 14 and 15 (reproduced below)?

One can use it on rivers, too. Marshes and small streams are fine for using a canoe.

(A)  One can use it on rivers, too, as well as marshes and small streams.

(B)  You can use it on rivers, too, and marshes and small streams are fine for using a canoe.

(C)  You can use it on rivers, marshes, and small streams.

(D)  Using it for rivers and paddling on marshes and small streams in a canoe.

(E)  One can use it on rivers and small streams and in marshes, which are fine for using a canoe.

Because the two sentences appear in a paragraph that uses the second-person pronoun (you), eliminate choices A and E. Choice D is a sentence fragment. Choice B is ineffective because its two coordinate clauses are not in the same grammatical form. Therefore, choice C, a concise and clear revision of the original sentences, is the best answer.

6.   The primary effect of the final paragraph (sentences 12–20) is to

(A)  summarize the ideas introduced in the previous paragraph

(B)  reconsider a point made in the first paragraph

(C)  support the validity of the essay’s main idea

(D)  explain a contradiction within the essay

(E)  provide an additional example

Almost every sentence in the final paragraph adds another dimension to the writer’s appreciation of canoes. Because the essay’s intent is to prove that canoes excel other small vessels in several ways—cost, maintenance, versatility, ease of use—choice C is the best answer.

TIP images

After you’ve read the essay, jot down its main point or purpose.