A good writer utilizes much more than rules of grammar and sentence structure to get the message across. The overall impact of an entire paper can be influenced by the writer’s strategies, organization, and style.
Whether you are writing or evaluating the writing of others, strategy is important to keep in mind. Consider the overall purpose of the piece and ask these questions:
The organization questions in the ACT English section measure your knowledge of paragraph and essay structure. Every paragraph written should contain an opening sentence, a main idea, and a closing sentence. You should be able to identify these elements within a single paragraph or larger work. Proper organization techniques also help you edit and identify sentences or paragraphs that need to be altered or deleted entirely. The ACT test may require you to select one sentence out of four that should be deleted from a passage, or it may offer you four variations of a single sentence and ask you to select the sentence that best fits the tone of a piece.
To study for this portion of the test, start out by identifying the basic definitions of paragraph and paper structure. The following definitions can help assist you in accurately and effectively constructing and deconstructing paragraphs.
All of these elements are fairly simple and straightforward and it is essential to include each of these components in your work. It is also necessary to be able to identify and use them when reviewing the work of others, as you will do on the ACT English test. To practice, use each concept when you write and work to identify each concept as you read essays, textbooks, or even magazine articles.
These two terms are present in ACT test score reports issued in September 2016 or later, so it is important to understand them. Don’t think of them as additional skills to learn, but things that will happen if you strive for the other competencies listed in this guide.
The cohesion of a piece of writing depends on how well the parts of the piece “go together.” Does the writer connect paragraphs and sentences, so that there is a meaningful flow of thought? Or does the writing seem “all over the place” and is it, thus, hard to follow? Cohesion also refers to grammatical practices within sentences and paragraphs.
Unity in a piece of writing refers to the degree in which the writer uses each paragraph to establish one premise and puts these paragraphs together to further the entire message. Each sentence in a paragraph should speak to the purpose and topic of that paragraph. Every paragraph needs to contribute to the overall point of the piece.
The style questions in the ACT English section evaluate your ability to identify and produce a consistent tone or style within a single paper or piece. Errors in style may be obvious, such as switching from second to third person point of view in the middle of a passage. However, some questions of style may be subtle, requiring you to alter a passage to maintain a consistently informative or persuasive tone.
More specific style questions involve appropriate word choice for the style and tone of the passage. You may also be asked to identify redundant information or wordiness. Minor details like these can weaken any piece of writing and it will be your job on this test to find them and choose the best form of correction.
To have a solid basis for style evaluation, you should be able to identify different styles and tones within written work. There are several different terms used to describe tone and style, a handful of them identified below. Although the list is by no means exhaustive, familiarizing yourself with these concepts not only helps to improve your writing, but also to adequately prepare you for the ACT English test.
When studying style concepts for the ACT test, simply read a few well-written works and some poorly written work (amateur fiction posted online could assist in this pursuit). Compare the two and determine what elements are present in the well-written work.