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PSAT Strategies: Writing. Analyzing Sentence Structure Problems with Logical Expression. Analyzing Sentence Structure. Is the sentence a run-on sentence? Are the elements of the sentence parallel? Are there any incomplete split constructions?

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psat strategies writing

PSAT Strategies: Writing

Analyzing Sentence Structure

Problems with Logical Expression

analyzing sentence structure
Analyzing Sentence Structure
  • Is the sentence a run-on sentence?
  • Are the elements of the sentence parallel?
  • Are there any incomplete split constructions?
  • Do the verb tenses correctly reflect the sequence of events?
run on sentences
Run-on Sentences

Run-on= sentence that carelessly runs two main clauses together without appropriate punctuation or connectors.

Run on sentences can be corrected in one of three ways:

end stop punctuation . ? !

a semicolon ;

, connector (FANBOY)

*however, consequently, therefore, and moreover are NOT connectors.


The lecture was dull you almost fell asleep. (run-on)

The lecture was dull. You almost fell asleep. (end stop)

The lecture was dull; you almost fell asleep. (;)

The lecture was dull, and you almost fell asleep. (, FANBOY)

The lecture was dull, therefore, you almost fell asleep. NO!

The lecture was dull; therefore, you almost fell asleep.

The lecture was dull. Therefore, you almost fell asleep.

faulty parallelism
Faulty Parallelism

Find the flaw:

At most colleges, the dominant attitude among students is that gaining admission to professional graduate school is more important than to obtain a well-rounded education.

To demand that additional seasonings be placed on the table is insulting the chef’s judgement on the proper balance of ingredients.

The review was very critical of the film, citing the poor photography, the weak plot, and the dialogue was stilted.

*Check all items- verb forms, noun forms, word pairs (this…that, either…or, and neither…nor)

Page 593 #29, #30, #31

incomplete split construction
Incomplete Split Construction

A split construction is a sentence structure in which two otherwise separate ideas are joined together by a later element. Be alert for split constructions and check that any interrupted thought is correctly completed.

Correct Example: The officials were not only aware of, but actually encouraged, the misreporting of scores.

incomplete split construction1
Incomplete Split Construction

Opponents of the President’s foreign policy disclosed yesterday that the CIA not only knew but tacitly encouraged terrorist activities in Central America.

Her colleagues always speak of Professor Collins as a person who has and will always be sensitive to the needs of younger students.

Judging from the pricing policies of many large corporations, maintaining a stable share of the market is as important, if not more important than, making a large profit.

*Read the sentence without the intervening material. It should make sense and be grammatically correct. #32 and #33

verb tense
Verb Tense
  • Principal parts of verbs/irregular verbs – page 295
  • Perfect tenses
    • Present perfect
      • I am glad you are here at last; I have waited an hour for you to arrive.
    • Past perfect
      • The foreman asked what had happened to my eye.
    • Future perfect
      • When I reach Chicago tonight, my uncle will have left for Los Angeles.
  • Subjective mood
    • If I were… as if he were… as though it were… we suggest that he be assigned… (a wish, condition contrary to fact, as if/though)
problems of logical expression
Problems of Logical Expression
  • Faulty or illogical comparisons
  • Sequence and verb tense
  • Unintended meanings
  • Conciseness
  • Misplaced modifiers
faulty or illogical comparisons
Faulty or Illogical Comparisons

*Be alert for sentences that attempt to make an illogical comparison between two dissimilar concepts.

Today, life expectancies of both men and women are much higher compared to the turn of the century when living conditions were much harsher.

The average salary of a professional basketball player is higher than the top level management of most corporations.

faulty or illogical comparisons1
Faulty or Illogical Comparisons

Comparisons between two objects: -er or more

Comparisons among three or more objects: -est or most

Irregular comparisons-

good better best

well better best

bad worse worst

far farther, further farthest, furthest

late later latest

little ? ?

many ? ?

modifiers that don t change
Modifiers that don’t change

These represent the HIGHEST degree, and therefore cannot be improved: complete correct dead

perfectly deadly unique totally

exact supreme infinitely



sequence and verb tense
Sequence and Verb Tense

Find the errors:

As soon as Linda finished writing her dissertation, she will take a well-earned vacation in Paris.

A recent study shows that many mothers re-enter the labor force after their children left home.

*Make sure verb tenses properly reflect the sequence as well as the duration of any action described in the sentence.

Charles came to town last week and goes to a resort where he rests for three days.

Joan came home last week and goes to to her home in the country where she spends the last weekend of her vacation.


unintended meanings
Unintended Meanings

*Check whether the sentence structure conveys the intended meaning.

A childless charwoman’s daughter, Dr. Roberts was a self-made woman.

If the present interest rates fall, the dollar will lose some of its value on the foreign exchange.



*Avoid awkward sentences

(A sentence may be grammatically and logically correct, yet need correction. *choose answers that render the thought more directly- many answer choices introduce additional awkwardness into the original sentence.)

A giant condor is able to spread its wings up to 25 feet.

Although most students would benefit from further study of the sciences, doing so is frightening to most of them in that science courses are more difficult that liberal arts courses.

Given that the Incas lacked the wheel, the buildings at Machu Picchu are more astonishing than any Greek temples that are comparable as an achievement.

conciseness cont
Conciseness, cont.

Avoid weak passive verbs (any verb construction using a formof the verb “be” or “have” in addition to the active verb is a passive verb)

One-fourth of the market was captured by the new computer firm.

The lottery prize being $110 million, there are almost as many tickets sold as there are prize dollars.

The teacher, having finished the day’s lesson, let us leave class early. #48

conciseness cont1
Conciseness, cont.

Avoid needlessly wordy sentences. Avoid needless repetition by selecting a choice that renders the thought the most directly.

The protracted discussion over which route we should take continued for a long time.

An aim of the proposal is chiefly to ensure and guarantee the academic freedom of students.


misplaced modifiers
Misplaced Modifiers
  • Stuffed with herb dressing, trussed neatly, and baked to a golden hue, Aunt Fannie proudly served her famous holiday turkey.
  • The doctor said gently to the patient that there was nothing wrong with a smile.
  • At the tailgate party, Fred served cold beer to his thirsty guests in paper cups.

*place modifiers as closely as possible to what they modify.