We mention these two because the test is in love with them both, and you’re certain to see them at least twice on the test, and they could well appear three or four times.
1. A colon can only be used after a complete sentence (independent clause). Most of us were taught that a colon sets up a list, but if there’s a list and what precedes the list is not a complete sentence, the use of a colon is wrong.
On test day when you see a colon as an answer choice, look to its left and if what precedes it is not a complete sentence, mark it wrong. If what precedes it is a complete sentence, mark it right.
One word can follow a colon; it does not have to be a laundry list. An explanation of what preceded the colon can also follow the colon. But you don’t have to concern yourself with all that. Just look to the left of the colon and if it’s not a complete sentence, it’s wrong. If it’s a complete sentence, it’s correct.
2. Semicolons separate two complete sentences (independent clauses).
When you’re offered a semicolon as an answer choice, look to the left of it to see if what precedes it is a complete sentence, and then look to the right of it to see if there’s a complete sentence. If the semicolon separates two complete sentences (independent clauses), it’s the correct choice. If it doesn’t, it’s wrong.
Finally, the test also feasts on run-on sentences, which are two complete sentences (independent clauses) separated by a comma. Be on red alert test day for run-ons. Best way to get a whiff of one is to slow down when you see a long sentence with a comma in the middle of it. Look to the left of the comma to see if what precedes it is a complete sentence, now look to its right to see if what follows it is a complete sentence. A comma that separates two complete sentences (independent clauses) is against grammar law; it’s called a run-on.
Once you’ve brushed up on your grammar rules, give our 15 minute SAT Writing and Language quiz a try. How did you do?