ACT English Passage 02: Ghost Signs

[1] Seeing remnants (16) of outdoor advertisements from a bygone era (17), they are called “ghost signs.” I search for them on city streets, in town squares, and along country roads. Some are weather-beaten billboards; others are faded murals painted years ago on the sides of old buildings. Whatever words remain (18) Fruiterer . . . Apothecary . . . Gramophones . . . Pan-Handle Coffee — are often barely legible, pale fragments of yesterday’s consumer culture should (19) strike me as silly or sad. After all, there they are: advertising products and businesses (20) that no longer exist.

Yet, they themselves survive without apology, with instead, (21) their simple claims and complex colors. The contrast draws me in every time.

[2] I collect ghost signs. Not the signs themselves, but photos of them. Driving home from school one chilly (22) October evening, my collection got its start (23). I had made the same drive countless times before, but I had never noticed the sign.

[3] Then there it was, an ad for “Joe’s Café,” perched atop a metal pole, which was upright (23) under a cape of kudzu vines. Maybe it was the way the setting sun’s illumination of (24) the yellowing plastic. Maybe it was the small hole, a clue to (25) vandalism or of a hailstorm. Instead, something (26) about the sign touched me. I pulled over. In the twilight, I got out of the car, snapped a picture with my phone, and sent it to some friends. I vowed to return with my camera to better capture the forlorn, luminous beauty of my discovery. Since that dusky evening, I have been happily haunted by ghost signs.

[4] Once in a while, I take a friend with me on my searches. People who know of my fascination will point me to where they think they have seen a ghost sign. Favorite finds include an ad for sliced bread, one for a “modern” motel, and yet another for fountain pen repair services. As fun as it is to have company, my best hunts have been solitude (27) trips. I appreciate the beauty of ghost signs more when I like the signs, (28) am alone.


G. The sight of remnants
H. To see remnants
J. Remnants

B. era that is no more,
C. era of another time,
D. era of times past,

G. remain—
H. remain,
J. remain:

B. that should
C. they should
D. should they

G. products and businesses,
H. products, and businesses
J. products: businesses

B. apology, with, instead,
C. apology with instead,
D. apology with instead

G. Driving home from school one chilly October evening was the beginning of my collection.
H. I started my collection one chilly October evening, driving home from school.
J. The start of my collection came to me driving home from school one chilly October evening.

23. Given that all the choices are accurate, which one echoes a central point the writer makes about ghost signs?
B. was not what interested me,
C. might have been wood,
D. was disappearing

G. illuminating setting sun on
H. sun illuminated the set on
J. setting sun illuminated

B. evidence of
C. evidently
D. DELETE the underlined portion.

G. On the other hand, something
H. Meanwhile, something
J. Something

B. solitarily
C. solitaire
D. solo

G. I, like, the signs
H. I, like the signs,
J. I like, the signs,

Questions 29 and 30 ask about the preceding passage as a whole.

29. For the sake of logic and cohesion, Paragraph 2 should be placed:
A. where it is now.
B. before Paragraph 1.
C. after Paragraph 3.
D. after Paragraph 4.

30. Suppose the writer’s primary purpose had been to describe starting and enjoying a new hobby. Would this essay accomplish that purpose?
F. Yes, because it presents the event that led to the narrator becoming interested in finding ghost signs and taking photographs of them.
G. Yes, because it describes the narrator’s experience of learning from a friend where to find ghost signs and how much fun the search itself can be.
H. No, because it uses negative terms such as lonely and forlorn to describe the narrator’s experience of collecting ghost signs.
J. No, because it instead describes two hobbies — photography and collecting ghost signs — and does not indicate which one gave the narrator more pleasure.


16. The best answer is J because the phrase “Remnants of outdoor advertisements from a bygone era” functions as an appositive, providing more information about the compound noun “ghost signs.” This is an acceptable, grammatical inversion of the construction “They are called ‘ghost signs,’ remnants of outdoor advertisements from a bygone era.”

17. The best answer is A because the phrase “bygone era” in the sentence is sufficient to express the idea that ghost signs are remnants of outdoor advertisements from an earlier time.

18. The best answer is G because the examples of words found on ghost signs interrupts the main clause and must be set off by appropriate punctuation (commas,  parentheses, or em dashes). This parenthetical information ends with an em dash and, therefore, must be introduced with an em dash as well.

19. The best answer is B because the relative pronoun that is required to logically and grammatically link the clause that follows to the rest of the sentence.

20. The best answer is F because no punctuation is necessary in order to connect compound direct object “products and businesses” to the rest of the sentence.

21. The best answer is B because the word instead is an interrupting aside that needs to be set off by commas. A comma also needs to come before the word with to separate the entire prepositional phrase “with, instead, their simple claims of complex colors” from the main clause.

22. The best answer is H because this sentence is the most logical and grammatical choice, making it clear that the narrator started her collection one October as she was driving home from school.

23. The best answer is D because the idea that the ad for Joe’s Café was disappearing echoes the point the narrator made earlier in the essay that ghost signs are barely legible, faded, and pale.

24. The best answer is J because the phrase “setting sun illuminated” creates a logical and grammatical sentence.

25. The best answer is B because “evidence of ” is the correct, idiomatic phrase needed in order to make this sentence most understandable (“evidence of vandalism or of a

26. The best answer is J because no transitional word or phrase is necessary in order to connect this sentence to the ideas in the rest of the paragraph.

27. The best answer is D because given the context of the sentence, the adjective solo is the most logical and precise word to modify the noun trips.

28. The best answer is H because the phrase “like the signs” is a nonrestrictive phrase in which the narrator compares herself to the signs. Setting off the phrase with commas prevents ambiguity when reading the sentence.

29. The best answer is A because the paragraph’s current placement makes the most logical sense within the narrative. The narrator first introduces signs, describes generally how her collection began, describes the specific instance that first drew her to ghost signs, and then concludes the essay by describing her hunts generally.

30. The best answer is F because the essay describes the narrator’s hobby of photographing ghost signs and how her hobby got started after she saw the sign for Joe’s Café.