Redundancy and Wordiness on ACT English
As you probably know by now, the ACT English section will test you on a variety of grammar rules and to maximize your ACT English score you must be able to understand and apply those rules. In addition to knowing various grammar rules, you must be able to use general strategies to pick the best choice when you are faced with more than one correct answer.
One of these strategies is that on the ACT, the golden rule is Shorter is better! The ACT tries to trick students by making answer choices unnecessarily wordy and redundant. Your goal is to pick out the shortest, grammatically correct answer that you can.
In this article we will talk about what exactly wordiness and redundancy are. We will show how the ACT tests wordiness and redundancy. We will also provide examples with full explanations.
Redundancy and Wordiness on ACT English are considered grammatical errors in which extra words or phrases are unnecessarily added to the sentence. Wordy sentences can be convoluted and confusing, even if they are grammatically correct. Conciseness is highly valued skill for the ACT because succinctness makes a sentence easier to follow and understand.
On the ACT, the shortest grammatically correct sentence that expresses the information and meaning of the original sentence will always be the correct choice.
Incorrect: Jessica invited me to a movie that was a very fun time.
Correct: Jessica invited me to a very fun movie.
Both sentences are grammatically correct and contain the same information, but the second sentence is shorter and less wordy, and between these two choices will always be the correct answer on the ACT.
Incorrect: I enjoy carrying a briefcase made out of leather.
Correct: I enjoy carrying a leather briefcase.
Again, the meaning of the sentences is the same, but the shorter second sentence is better.
Approach each question with a shorter is better mindset. When answering ACT English questions, consider the shortest choices first while keeping in mind that the shortest answer must also be grammatically correct while expressing the same information that a longer sentence would.
Plug your answer back into the original sentence to make sure the sentence is grammatically correct and the shorter choice does not create fragments or run-ons.
Let’s apply this strategy to an actual ACT example below.
Explanation: Even if the original sentence looks perfectly correct to you, remember our rule that shorter is better while considering answer choices. Starting with the shortest answer choice – C, plug it back into the original sentence. After doing that you will find that the sentence is still grammatically correct and contains all the information of the original while being more concise. The original phrase “being the place” is not necessary.
Explanation: In this type of question, you are asked what information can be deleted without altering the meaning of the sentence. In order to answer this type of question correctly, you have to consider all of the answer choices and determine if any choice can be obtained somewhere else in the sentence.
Choice A is incorrect – “thirty” is needed because it tells us how much experience she had.
Answer Choice B is incorrect – “and librarian” describes part of her job.
Choice D is incorrect – it tells us where she worked for thirty years
Choice C is correct – “in the field of education” is the same information that we get from the phrase “she worked as a teacher and librarian.” The only place where someone can be a teacher and a librarian is in the field of education, so this phrase is unnecessary to the meaning of the sentence. The correct answer is C.
Explanation: Again, let’s start with the shortest answer. In this question, that would be choice D – omit the underlined phrase. Is the sentence still grammatically correct? Does it have the same meaning if we OMIT “As time goes by?” Yes!
The underlined portion is not necessary because the phrase “over many weeks” already conveys the passage of time. The correct answer is D.
Redundancy questions on ACT English section are common. If a word or phrase is redundant, it is unnecessary and can be eliminated without altering the meaning of the sentence. On the ACT, redundancy tends to be presented in two ways: using two synonyms to describe something when only one word would suffice and adding a phrase that is already implied by another word or phrase within the sentence.
Incorrect: Three teachers taught during each and every hour at school.
The words “each” and “every” are synonyms and the sentence would be better if only one word was used:
Correct: Three teachers taught during every hour at school.
Incorrect: I visited a doctor for my annual well check every year.
In this sentence, the word “annual” already conveys the meaning of the phrase “every year”.
Correct: I visited a doctor for my annual well check.
In both of these examples, the correct sentences are shorter, more concise, grammatically correct, and contain the same meaning as the original, longer sentences.
Similar to the strategy with wordiness questions, to get rid of redundancy, look at the shortest answer first. Plug the shortest answer back into the original sentence and see if the sentence still makes sense and is grammatically correct. Make sure that the two synonyms describe the same thing – if they describe different things, you cannot get rid of them. Verify that the underlined portion is not implied elsewhere in the sentence.
Explanation: the wording of the underlined phrase indicates that we’re dealing with a redundancy question. The words “might” and “possibly” are synonyms, so we don’t need both of them. Looking at the shortest answer – J, we recognize that “I’ve” is just a contraction for “I have,” so choosing this answer will get rid of “might possibly.” Will the meaning of the sentence change? No. The word “maybe” already conveys the phrase “might possibly,” so “might possibly” is redundant and the correct answer is J.
Explanation: Based on the context of the sentence, “consecutively” means without stopping. Can you get that information anywhere else in the sentence? Yes. The phrase “for twelve hours straight” means the same thing. Therefore, we can safely eliminate “consecutively.” Does the sentence still have the same meaning? Yes. The correct answer is D.
Explanation: Can you get the information from the underlined portion elsewhere in the sentence? Yes. The word “annual” means yearly. From reading the sentence, we understand that “annual tables of astronomical data” means “yearly sets.” The underlined phrase is unnecessary. The shortest, grammatically correct answer is D.
#1. Shorter is Better
If the shortest answer choice maintains the meaning and grammatical correctness of the original sentence, then it is the right answer.
#2. Plug in the Shortest Answer Choice First
Because shorter is better, determine if the shortest answer choice is appropriate for the original sentence by plugging it in. If the resulting sentence is still grammatically correct, conveys the same information, and maintains the meaning of the original sentence, then the shortest choice is the right answer.
#3. Determine if the Underlined Word or Phrase is Necessary
If you can get the information in the underlined word or phrase from somewhere else within the original sentence, then the underlined word or phrase is redundant and should be omitted.
To get a general overview of grammar rules covered on the ACT English section, read our ACT grammar article . If you are interested in learning about another frequently tested grammar concept, read the article about modifier errors.
Familiar yourself with what the ACT actually covers and 5 critical concepts you must know to ace the ACT English.