A sentence can be grammatically accurate and still need correction. Sentences that exhibit awkward, wordy, imprecise, redundant, or unclear constructions require fixing. These errors are called errors in rhetorical construction. The right answer will often simply sound better to you.

Any sentence that uses an excessive number of words to convey its message probably has construction problems. Often, wordiness accompanies another type of error in the underlined part. Look for the answer that uses the fewest words to correct the main error.

Using passive instead of active voice makes a sentence seem weak and wordy.

For example, this passive-voice sentence masks the doer of an action: The speech was heard by most members of the corporation. The sentence isn’t technically incorrect, but it’s better to say it this way: Most members of the corporation heard the speech.

The active voice sentence uses fewer words. So if all else is equal, choose active voice over passive voice.

Using repetitive language adds unnecessary words.

A sentence shouldn't use more words than it needs to. For example: The speaker added an additional row of chairs to accommodate the large crowd. The construction of added an additional isn’t grammatically incorrect, but it’s needlessly repetitive. It’s more precise and less wordy to say: The speaker added a row of chairs to accommodate the large crowd.


Example 1

Recently, the price of crude oil have been seeing fluctuations with the demand for gasoline in China.

  1. have been seeing fluctuations with
  2. have fluctuated with
  3. fluctuate with
  4. has fluctuated with
  5. has changed itself along with

The main error in the sentence concerns subject-verb agreement. The singular subject, price, requires a singular verb. Additionally, the underlined portion is needlessly wordy. First, eliminate answer choices that don’t correct the agreement problem. Then, focus on choices that clarify the language.

Both Choices (B) and (C) perpetuate the agreement problem by providing plural verbs for the singular subject. Eliminate those along with Choice (A), and you are left with Choices (D) and (E).

Choice (E) is constructed even more awkwardly than the original sentence, so Choice (D) is the best answer.

 

Example 2

A recent survey of American colleges reveal that among some of the most selective universities the acceptance rates have lowered by at least a 2 percent decrease over the last two years.

  1. reveal that among some of the most selective universities the acceptance rates have lowered by at least a 2 percent decrease over the last two years
  2. reveals that among some of the most selective universities the acceptance rates have lowered by at least a 2 percent decrease over the last two years
  3. reveal that among some of the most selective universities acceptance rates have decreased by at least 2 percent over the last two years
  4. reveals that among some of the most selective universities acceptance rates have decreased by at least 2 percent over the last two years
  5. reveals that among some of the most selective universities the acceptance rates have decreased by at least a 2 percent margin over the last two years

As you examine the possible answers, first notice you have the option of either reveal or reveals. The subject is survey, so you can eliminate answers that provide the plural verb reveal. So Choices (A) and (C) are out.

In Choice (B), the verb lowered is sufficient to let you know that the rates have gone down; you don’t also need to know that the rate was a percent decrease. The redundancy makes this answer incorrect. Choice (E) eliminates the repetition of the decrease, but it introduces another redundancy. If the rate decreased by a percentage, you don’t also need to know it decreased by a margin.

The answer that corrects the verb agreement and eliminates redundant wording is Choice (D).