Sentence Structure

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This SAT question mentions the writer Toni Morrison.  Toni Morrison is an African American novelist whose novels have received numerous awards.  She would make an excellent historical figure to write about in your SAT essay, and any of her works of literature would also make excellent examples.  Take a moment to read about Toni Morrison’s life here or here.  You just might be inspired to pick up one of her celebrated novels.

8/12 Improving Sentences

Part or all of the following sentence is underlined; beneath the sentence are five ways of phrasing the underlined material. Select the option that produces the best sentence. If you think the original phrasing produces a better sentence than any of the alternatives, select choice A.  

Read the original sentence to yourself and evaluate the underlined portion by checking it against the Big 8 Grammar Rules. Your goal is to create clear and precise sentences.

With the 1977 publication of Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison both received popular and critical acclaim.

Did the original sentence sound odd to you?  Your first task is to identify the problem.  This sentence is hard to understand because the word “both” is misplaced.  The formula for linking two things by conjunctions is “Both X and Y.”  With the word “both” before the verb “received,” it sounds as if there are two people receiving things rather than two kinds of things being received.  You know that the person who wrote this sentence wants to emphasize the idea that there are two kinds of acclaim, but that the sentence is not as clear as it could be.  Look down at the answer choices.

(A) both received popular and
(B) both received popular and also
(C) received popular, along with
(D) received popular as well as
(E) received both popular and also

(A) and (B) can be eliminated right away because they maintain the incorrect structure of the original sentence with the word “both” before the word “received.”  (C) adds an unnecessary comma that complicates the sentence rather than making it more clear.  (D) correctly uses the idiomatic phrase “as well as,” which maintains the emphasis on two different types of acclaim while making the meaning of the sentence clearer.  Remember to check (E) even if (D) seems like a good answer.  (E) may look correct at first glance because the word “both” is moved to a position after the word “received.”  However, this choice adds to the word “both” an “also.”  The function of both of these words is to draw attention to the fact that there are two different types of acclaim, so choosing either “both” or  “also”  would be more concise.  Remember that you want to avoid redundancy.

The correct answer is (D).

On, 66% of responses were correct.

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