SAT Writing: Improving Sentences

Improving Sentences

Select the choice that results in the best sentence – the sentence that follows the requirements of standard written English and communicates effectively.

The phone which had been dropped into the pool, never worked properly.

A.      phone which had been dropped into the pool,

B.      phone, which had been dropped into the pool,

C.      phone, that had been dropped into the pool,

D.      phone that had been dropped into the pool,

E.       phone had been dropped into the pool,


The Knowsys Method

Read the entire sentence carefully, listening for errors.  Then focus on the underlined part.  Evaluate it by checking it against the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  If you find an error, use that error to quickly eliminate any answer choices that do not fix the problem you found.

The grammar rule that is tested here is idioms!  When do you use the word “that” and when do you use the word “which"?  The word “that” is for phrases that are vital to a sentence.  The word “which" is for phrases that can be omitted.  This author chose to use the word "which," but it is not used correctly.  Remember your Knowsys tip:  Always put a comma before the word “which."  Make that correction and then look down at your answer choices.

A.       The first choice is always the same as the original!  Selecting it is the same as selecting “no change." This choice cannot be correct because you found an error.  Eliminate it.

B.      This answer choice matches your prediction exactly!  Quickly check the other choices.

C.      This answer choice adds a comma, but it is in front of the word “that."  You do not need a comma in front of the word “that;"  you need a comma in front of the word “which."  Eliminate this choice.

D.      This answer choice changes “which" to “that," but it still fails to use the correct punctuation.  Remember that commas often help set off nonessential information.  In the correct choice, the comma signals that a nonessential phrase is coming, this information is confirmed with the word “which," and then another comma signals the end of the nonessential information.  If the phrase starts with the word “that," then no commas are needed in this sentence because all of the information is essential.  This choice has a comma error.  Eliminate it.

E.       This answer choice eliminates the word “which" altogether, which creates a structural problem in the sentence.  Now the information that the phone had been dropped seems to be the main point of the sentence.  The words “never worked properly" seem to modify or describe the pool rather than the phone.  This choice is awkward and incorrect for multiple reasons.  Eliminate it.

The correct answer is (B).


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