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 mime neither spoke nor did he use props during his act.

A.      neither spoke nor did he use props

B.      neither speaking nor using props

C.      neither spoke or used props

D.      either spoke or used props

E.       neither spoke nor used props


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 parallelism.  You have two verbs that are linked by the words "neither" and "nor," so you need them to be in parallel format.  In this sentence the first word "spoke" is in the past tense, but the word "use" is not.  Change the word "use" to the past tense and eliminate the unnecessary pronoun in the second portion of the sentence.  The sentence is much more clear and concise when it reads, "The mime neither spoke nor used props during his act."  Look down at your answer choices.

A.  The first choice is always the same as the original!  You found an error in the original sentence, so you can eliminate this answer choice.

B.  The two verbs are in parallel format in this answer choice, but there is a new sentence structure problem that is introduced.  Read the entire sentence and you will notice how awkward it sounds.  One of your Knowsys tips is to avoid unnecessary "-ing" words.  Eliminate this choice.

C.  This answer choice is in parallel format, but it has changed the link between the words.  Instead of using the idiomatically correct "neither X nor Y," the sentence changes the "nor" to "or."  Eliminate it.

D.  This answer choice changes the meaning of the original sentence.  Instead of indicating that the mime did not do these things, it indicates that the mime did one of them.  Eliminate this choice.

E.  This answer choice matches your prediction.  


The correct answer choice is (E).

This question is a medium level question.


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