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Wordiness and Redundancy in ACT English: Tips and Practice

Posted by Justin Berkman | Jun 22, 2015 1:00:00 PM

ACT English



ACT English tests you on a number of specific grammar rules. Being able to understand and apply these rules will help you maximize your ACT English score. Besides knowing specific grammar rules, there are some general strategies to keep in mind that will help you correctly answer more questions. 

One of these tips is that the ACT prefers shorter sentences. Wordiness and redundancy are common errors on the ACT English section. The goal for each sentence is to express the same information in the shortest grammatically correct way.

In this post, I'll do the following:

  • Explain wordiness.
  • Explain redundancy.
  • Show how wordiness and redundancy are tested on the ACT.
  • Provide actual ACT examples.
  • Give practice problems to test you on what you've learned.


Wordiness on ACT English

On the ACT, wordiness is a grammatical error in which extra words or phrases are added to a sentence unnecessarily. Concise writing is preferable because conciseness makes a sentence more understandable and easier to follow. Wordy sentences can be difficult to navigate and tough to comprehend.

On the ACT English section, the shortest grammatically correct answer choice that expresses the same information as the original sentence will be the right answer. Here's an example of a wordy sentence:

Allison took me to a party that was a very fun time.


This is the corrected version of the sentence:

Allison took me to a very fun party.


Technically, both sentences are grammatically correct and convey the same information. However, the second sentence is more concise and less wordy. Check out another example of a wordy sentence:

I enjoy getting my nourishment by way of fried foods.


After we fix the wordiness error, this is what the sentence looks like:

I enjoy eating fried foods.




Again, the meaning of the sentences is the same, but the second sentence is much more concise and grammatically correct.

Check out these tips for correctly answering wordiness questions on the ACT.


Wordiness Strategy

Approach each question with the mindset that shorter = better. When answering ACT English questions, start by looking at the shorter answer choices. Keep in mind that the shorter grammatically correct answer choice must also express the same relevant information for it to be the right answer.

Plug your answer back into the original sentence to make sure that your answer is grammatically correct and expresses the same information. 

Use these tips to answer the following examples taken from actual ACT English sections.


Actual ACT English Examples

Choose the correct answer for this wordiness question from a real ACT.

He then wrote an enthusiastic article for Strand Magazine, being the place in which most of his Sherlock Holmes stories had first appeared, and later wrote a book on the subject titled The Coming of the Fairies.

B. in which the magazine where
C. in which
D. being where 


Explanation: Even if the original sentence seems correct to you, remember our rule that shorter is better. Start with the shortest answer choice. That would be answer choice C. Plug it back into the original sentence. The sentence is still grammatically correct and all of the relevant info is still there. The phrase “being the place” is unnecessary. The answer is C.


Try your luck at another actual ACT wordiness question.

She worked for thirty years as a teacher and librarian in the field of education in Baltimore public schools.


Which of the following words or phrases from the preceding sentence is LEAST necessary and could therefore be deleted?

F. thirty
G. and librarian
H. in the field of education
J. Baltimore public


Explanation: In this type of question, you have to pick which word/phrase can be deleted without getting rid of any information. Go through the answer choices and see if the information in the answer choice can be obtained elsewhere in the sentence.

So answer choice F isn’t correct because if we got rid of “thirty”, we would have no way of knowing that she worked for thirty years. The answer is H. If we got rid of “in the field of education," we would still know that she worked in the field of education because she worked in Baltimore public schools. Therefore, the phrase “in the field of education” is unnecessary.



Baltimore downtown


Are you figuring out how to solve these wordiness questions? Here's a final one for you to try.

Over many weeks, as time goes by, her collection slowly grows: clay bowls, cups, vases, and sculptures fill the studio. 

B. with the passing of time,
C. gradually,
D. OMIT the underlined portion


Explanation: Again, let’s start with the shortest answer. That would be answer choice D, omitting the underlined portion. Is the sentence still grammatically correct? Does it have the same meaning if we omit “as time goes by?"

Yes!! The underlined phrase is unnecessary because “over many weeks” implies “as time goes by over many weeks”. Therefore, the underlined phrase is superfluous and the answer is D

Another error which can be corrected by implementing our shorter is better rule is redundancy.


Redundancy on the ACT

Redundancy questions on the ACT English section are fairly 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. The first way is that two synonyms will be used to describe something when only one of the words is necessary. Here is an example:


Justin is a very friendly and amicable guy.


Because "friendly" and "amicable" are synonyms, we can shorten the sentence by getting rid of one of the adjectives that describes Justin. The second way that a redundancy error is presented on the SAT is that a phrase will be added that is implied by another word or phrase in the sentence. Take a look at the following example:

This article contains pertinent information that offers relevant facts for doing well in ACT English.


The words "pertinent" and "relevant" are synonyms. The phrase "that offers relevant facts" doesn't add any new information to the sentence; therefore, it can be eliminated. This is the corrected version of the sentence:

This article contains pertinent information for doing well in ACT English.


Does that make sense? The sentence is shorter, grammatically correct, and it expresses the same information. Here are some tips to help you solve redundancy questions on the ACT.


Redundancy Strategy

Look at the shortest answer choices first. Plug the shortest answer choice back into the original sentence. If the sentence maintains its meaning and is grammatically correct, that's the right answer. Make sure that two synonyms aren't being used to describe the same thing. Verify that the information in the underlined phrase is not implied elsewhere in the sentence.

Use these tips to answer the following redundancy questions taken from real ACTs.


Actual ACT English Examples

Try to figure out this redundancy question from a real ACT.

I think maybe I might possibly have met them all.

G. perhaps I've
H. I've possibly
J. I've


Explanation: Well, the underlined phrase indicates that we’re probably dealing with a redundancy question. The words “might” and “possibly” are synonyms, so we don’t need both of them. Let’s look at the shortest answer choice. That's J. “I’ve” is just the contraction for “I have” so the only change to the sentence is getting rid of “might possibly." Will the meaning of the sentence change? No. The word “maybe” indicates that I “might possibly” have met them. Therefore, “might possibly” is redundant and the answer is J.

Does that make sense? Try another one.
Today, Smith's repertoire is so vast that she could speak consecutively for twelve hours straight without running out of material.
B. continuously nonstop
C. perpetually
D. OMIT the underlined portion

Explanation: Based on the context of the sentence, “consecutively” means without stopping. Can that information be gathered elsewhere in the sentence? Yes. The phrase “for twelve hours straight” means that she could speak for twelve hours without stopping. Therefore, “consecutively” is unnecessary. Now, let’s look at D, the shortest answer choice. Will the sentence still be grammatically correct if we get rid of “consecutively”? Yes. The answer is D.


Madonna wants you to have one more chance to correctly answer a redundancy question.


And just for good measure, here's one final example of a redundancy question.

He also began to calculate annual tables of yearly sets of astronomical data, which became the basis for almanacs published under his name from 1792 through 1797.

B. covering a year's worth
C. about twelve months
D. OMIT the underlined portion


Explanation: Can the information in the underlined phrase be obtained elsewhere in the sentence? Yes. The word “annual” means yearly. If there were annual tables of astronomical data, then we already know that there were yearly sets. Therefore, the phrase is unnecessary. The shortest answer choice is D. Will the sentence be grammatically correct if we omit the underlined portion? Yes. The answer is D.

These questions aren't overly complicated, but you can easily miss a redundancy question if you don't read each sentence carefully. Make sure to follow the strategies I gave you for redundancy questions.

Here are some general guidelines to help you correctly answer both wordiness and redundancy questions.


General ACT English Strategies for Wordiness and Redundancy


#1: Shorter is Better

If the shortest answer choice maintains the meaning of the original sentence and is grammatically correct, then the shortest answer choice will be the right answer. Make sure that the shortest answer choice is still grammatically correct and expresses the same information as the original sentence.


#2: Plug in the Shortest Answer Choice First

Because shorter is better, determine whether the shortest answer choice is appropriate for the sentence. If a more concise answer choice maintains the meaning of the original sentence and is grammatically correct, then that is the right answer.


#3: Determine Whether the Underlined Word/Phrase is Necessary

If the information in the underlined word or phrase can be gathered from other words or phrases in the sentence, then the underlined word or phrase is redundant and should be omitted.


I've created some realistic practice problems to test your knowledge of wordiness and redundancy on the ACT.



Additional ACT English Practice Questions

1. Lauren was spending so many hours at her job at the zoo that her leisure time was minimal and not abundant at all.


B. minimal and not abundant.

C. at a minimum.

D. minimal.


2. In the next two weeks of time in the future, Tarica will be receiving a check for the legal work she performed for her client.


B. In the next two weeks of time in the future;

C. In the next two weeks,

D. OMIT the underlined portion


3. The teacher became increasingly frustrated with the rowdy student who acted in a wild, disorderly manner.


B. who acted wildly.

C. whom acted wildly.

D. OMIT the underlined portion


4. George, after thirty years of work in the automotive industry, was thoroughly overjoyed to retire and no longer go to his job.


B. and no longer have to work.

C. but no longer have to go to his job.

D. OMIT the underlined portion


Answers: 1. D, 2. C, 3. D, 4. D


What's Next?

To get a general overview of all the grammar rules covered on the ACT English section, read this article about grammar for the ACT. If you would like to learn about another frequently tested grammar issue on the ACT, check out this post about faulty modifiers.

Also, as you continue preparing for the ACT, I highly recommend that you investigate the best ACT prep websites


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Justin Berkman
About the Author

Justin has extensive experience teaching SAT prep and guiding high school students through the college admissions and selection process. He is firmly committed to improving equity in education and helping students to reach their educational goals. Justin received an athletic scholarship for gymnastics at Stanford University and graduated with a BA in American Studies.

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