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Improving Paragraphs

This type of question measures your ability to:
  • edit and revise sentences in the context of a paragraph or the entire essay
  • organize and develop paragraphs in a coherent and logical manner
  • apply the conventions of standard written English


The following passage is an early draft of an essay. Some parts of the passage need to be rewritten.

Read the passage and select the best answers for the questions that follow. Some questions are about particular sentences or parts of sentences and ask you to improve sentence structure or word choice. Other questions ask you to consider organization and development. In choosing answers, follow the requirements of standard written English.

Answering Improving Paragraphs Questions

To answer the Improving Paragraphs questions that accompany the draft essay, you will need to note what sentences need to be corrected and to know how the sentences relate to one another and to the essay as a whole. Follow the outlined steps to answer the questions.

Step 1:
Read the entire essay quickly to determine its overall meaning. The essay is intended as a draft, so you will notice errors.

Step 2:
In answering each question, make sure that your answer about a particular sentence or group of sentences makes sense in the context of the passage as a whole. Choose the best answer from among the choices given, even if you can imagine another correct response.

Practice Question

The questions below are based on the following passage:

(1) Many times art history courses focus on the great "masters," ignoring those women who should have achieved fame. (2) Often women artists like Mary Cassatt have worked in the shadows of their male contemporaries. (3) They have rarely received much attention during their lifetimes. (4) My art teacher has tried to make up for it by teaching us about women artists and their work. (5) Recently she came to class very excited; she had just read about a little-known artist named Annie Johnson, a high school teacher who had lived all of her life in New Haven, Connecticut. (6) Johnson never sold a painting, and her obituary in 1937 did not even mention her many paintings. (7) Thanks to Bruce Blanchard, a Connecticut businessman who bought some of her watercolors at an estate sale. (8) Johnson is finally starting to get the attention that she deserved more than one hundred years ago. (9) Blanchard now owns a private collection of hundreds of Johnson's works - watercolors, charcoal sketches, and pen-and-ink drawings.

(10) There are portraits and there are landscapes. (11) The thing that makes her work stand out are the portraits. (12) My teacher described them as "unsentimental." (13) They do not idealize characters. (14) Characters are presented almost photographically. (15) Many of the people in the pictures had an isolated, haunted look. (16) My teacher said that isolation symbolizes Johnson's life as an artist.

Improving Paragraphs Practice Questions

1. In context, which is the best revision to the underlined portion of sentence 3 (reproduced below)?

They have rarely received much attention during their lifetimes.

(A) In fact, they had
(B) Too bad these artists have
(C) As a result, these women have
(D) In spite of this, women artists
(E) Often it is the case that the former have

2. In context, which of the following revisions to sentence 7 is most needed?
(A) Delete "Thanks to".
(B) Move "Thanks to Bruce Blanchard" to the end of sentence 7.
(C) Delete "who".
(D) Change "her" to "Johnson's".
(E) Change the period to a comma and combine sentence 7 with sentence 8.

3. In context, which of the following is the best version of sentence 10 (reproduced below)?

There are portraits and there are landscapes.
(A) (As it is now)
(B) You can see both portraits and landscapes.
(C) Therefore, both portraits and landscapes are among her works.
(D) Johnson painted both portraits and landscapes.
(E) Among them Johnson has portraits and landscapes.

Answer Question 1:
Correct Answer: C

Although sentence 3 is not grammatically wrong, its relationship to the preceding sentence needs to be made clearer. A transitional phrase should be added to emphasize the cause-and-effect relationship between the stated facts - women artists received little attention as a consequence of having worked in the shadows of their male contemporaries - and the ambiguous pronoun "They" should be replaced with a word or phrase that clearly refers to the "women artists" and not the "male contemporaries" mentioned in sentence 2.

(A), (B), and (D) are unsatisfactory because in each case the transitional phrase ("In fact," "Too bad," or "In spite of this") fails to indicate the cause-and-effect relationship. Moreover, both (A) and (B) leave the ambiguity of the pronoun unresolved.

(E) is unsatisfactory not only because it fails to signal the cause-and-effect relationship but also because it is wordy and illogically combines the adverbs "Often" and "rarely."

(C) is correct. The transitional phrase "as a result" clearly indicates a cause-and-effect relationship, and "these women" properly resolves the ambiguity of the pronoun "They."

Answer Question 2:

Correct Answer: E

Sentence 7 is a sentence fragment, with neither a subject nor a main verb to finish the thought it has begun. It says "Thanks to Bruce Blanchard," but it does not say what happened thanks to Bruce Blanchard. It should therefore be joined to an independent clause, complete with subject and verb, that indicates what happened as a result of Blanchard's action.

(A), (B), and (D) are unsatisfactory because each fails to provide the main verb needed to complete the sentence. Each results in another sentence fragment.

Although (C) results in a complete sentence, the sentence makes little sense in the context of the paragraph because it suggests that Bruce Blanchard is someone other than the Connecticut businessman who bought the watercolors.

(E) is correct. This change results in a grammatically complete sentence that indicates what happened thanks to Bruce Blanchard's efforts: Johnson began to get the attention she deserved.

Answer Question 3:
Correct Answer: D

In addition to being vague, sentence 10 contains no noun to which the pronoun "her" in sentence 11 may refer. It should be revised so that Johnson is clearly identified as the painter of the portraits and landscapes.

(A), (B), and (C) are unsatisfactory because each omits any mention of Johnson.

Though (E) does mention Johnson, it is misleading in that the words "Johnson has" suggest that Johnson is the owner rather than the painter of the portraits and landscapes.

(D) is correct because it properly identifies Johnson as the painter of the artworks and thus provides an antecedent for the pronoun "her" in sentence 11.