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8 Grammar Tips to Help Kids on the SAT

Teens biting their nails over this portion of the College Board exam? Or simply looking for tricks to brush up on the ol' English? Get help here!

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4. Shortest Point: Economy of expression

In English, especially American English, brevity is the heart and soul of popular expression. Think Ernest Hemingway rather than William Faulkner. Short, cryptic slogans like "Just do it" and "No pain, no gain" are part of the cultural landscape because of the direct way they convey information. This principle holds true for SAT grammar. The most direct form of expression is the best form of expression. Take a look at the following sentences and determine which one says the most with the fewest number of words:

  • The best way to get an exact answer to the question would be to use a calculator.
  • Using a calculator would be the best way to get an exact answer to the question.
  • A calculator would be the best possible way to answer the question exactly.
  • The best way to get an exact answer is to use a calculator.

Clearly, the last version is the most economical expression and therefore the best choice. As a bonus, this rule can be used in conjunction with other rules to whittle down the possible choices. To demonstrate this, take another look at the examples we used earlier to demonstrate the "Leaking Oil" rule:

  • Working overtime, the industrial facility was populated by hundreds of technicians.
  • The industrial facility, working overtime, had hundreds of busy technicians.
  • Technicians, busy at the industrial facility, would be working overtime.
  • The busy technicians at the industrial facility were the ones who worked overtime
  • Working overtime, busy technicians populated the industrial facility.

Notice that the correct answer – the last – is also the answer with the fewest words. As long as a sentence is grammatically correct, the shortest point is the best choice.

There is, however, one important exception to this rule. Parallel structure is the only thing that beats "Shortest Point."

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