Do Spelling and Grammar Count?

Jan 2, 2013 by

Yes, they do. But they are not the most important things that you want to concern yourself with. Of course ACT expects students to be able to spell correctly and to demonstrate proper grammar. But if you make mistakes, you’re going to be okay. You still might land that top score you’re hoping for. Think of it like small stains on your shirt when you interview for a job: stains won’t keep you from getting a job, but they can be just distracting enough to lower someone’s impression of you.

On the long list of what ACT is looking for in your essay, spelling and grammar rank towards the bottom of that list. Really, you want to make your spelling and grammar “non-distracting,” which means that you shouldn’t have frequent or idiotic errors. The goal is not to impress ACT with your spelling and grammar; it’s to not draw attention at all to your spelling and grammar. Frequent and big mistakes draw attention. Effective spelling and grammar make readers forget about it completely.

Here’s what ACT wants. You need to be able to demonstrate that you have strong control over your language, including grammar and spelling. This means that while you can make mistakes, you can’t sound illiterate. So, the fewer the mistakes, the better.

Here are some common elements of grammar that you may want to consider brushing up on, as they are likely to come up in your essay:

• Commas
• Semicolons
• Colons
• Quotation marks
• Avoiding sentence fragments and run-on sentences
• Capitalization

And, as luck would have it, if you study these things then you are simultaneously studying for the English part of the ACT as well!

As an example, read the following two short passages. The first one has spelling and grammatical errors; the second one is the same content, just better mechanics.

Passage 1: Students forget that they don’t have complete fredom of speech inside of school instead there rights are limited. Sometimes they want to say what they thinking or just want to speak out of anger but that’s bad. It causes problem’s and ultimately the goverment, limits compleet free speech for protection.

Passage 2: Students forget that they don’t have complete freedom of speech inside of schools; instead, their rights are limited. Sometimes they want to say whatever they are thinking, or they just want to speak out of anger. However, this type of speech causes problems, and the government limits complete free speech to increase its protection of everyone.

See what small differences these are – but right away you like the second passage better. Why? Because those small grammatical improvements make a much better, non-distracting impression!

So don’t be that person at the interview with stains on your shirt. Stains don’t mean you won’t get the job, but wouldn’t you feel better knowing that you had a clean shirt? The same goes for your spelling and grammar!

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