SAT Test Prep

CHAPTER 15
ESSENTIAL GRAMMAR SKILLS

Lesson 2: Trimming Sentences

Why Trim?


Spotting SVD errors is often easier when you “trim” the sentence, that is, eliminate nonessential modifiers to leave the “core” of the sentence. What remains after you “trim” a sentence should still be a grammatically correct and complete sentence.


How to “Trim” a Sentence


Step 1: Cross out all nonessential prepositional phrases.

e.g., The bird in the cage began singing.


preposition is a word that shows relative position or direction. It can complete one of the following sentences:

The squirrel ran _____ the tree.
Democracy is government _____ the people.

Examples include to, from, of, for, by, in, before, with, beyond, and up.

prepositional phrase is the preposition and the noun phrase that follows, including its modifiers.

e.g., from sea to shining sea in
the beginning with hat in hand


Step 2: Cross out all interrupting phrases.

e.g., The committee, ignoring tradition, will approve the measure.


An interrupting phrase is a modifying phrase that interrupts the flow of the sentence. Interrupters are generally separated from the main sentence by commas or dashes.


Step 3: Cross out all other nonessential modifiers and modifying phrases.

e.g., Having traveled so far, the baseball team hardly wanted to forfeit the championship game.


Modifiers are adjectives and adverbs, as well as modifying phrases like participial phrases (see Lesson 7). Most modifiers are not essential to a sentence, but some are. Use your best judgment. One kind of essential adjective is a predicate adjective, that is, an adjective that is linked to the subject by a linking verb, as in Martha is smart.

Trimming a sentence helps you to spot SVD more easily.

Who Kicked Whom?

When you write, trim your sentences to play the “Who kicked whom?” exercise. Look at the subject-verb-object (“Who kicked whom?”) core, and see if it clearly and forcefully conveys the thought you want to convey.

Yikes! That doesn’t make a shred of sense; rewrite it.

Concept Review 2: Trimming Sentences

1. What are the three types of words or phrases that can be eliminated when “trimming” a sentence?

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2. Why is it sometimes helpful to “trim” a sentence?

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3. Circle all of the prepositions in the list below.

of beyond for and with the an without some along below

4. What is a prepositional phrase?

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5. Write four examples of prepositional phrases.

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Write the trimmed version of each sentence on the line below it, correcting any verb problems.

6. The team of advisors, arriving ahead of schedule, were met at the airport by the Assistant Prime Minister.

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7. The flock of birds that darted over the lake were suddenly an opalescent silver.

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8. Carmen, along with her three sisters, are unlikely to be swayed by arguments supporting David’s position.

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Write the trimmed version of each sentence on the line below it, then rewrite the sentence to make it clearer and more forceful, changing the subject and verb entirely, if necessary.

9. Nearly inevitably, advancements, or those being popularly regarded as such, have to do with modifications, not overhaul.

10. The development of the new country’s governmental system was affected in a negative regard by the rebels’ lack of cohesiveness.

Worksheet 2: Trimming Sentences

Write the “trimmed” version of each sentence, circling the verbs and subjects and correcting any agreement errors.

1. Juggling the demands of both school and my social agenda often seem too much to bear.

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2. Others on the committee, like the chairwoman Amanda Sanders, is concerned about the lack of attention given to school safety.

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3. The waiters’ professional demeanor—particularly their keen knowledge, their attention to detail, and their cordiality—are what makes dining there such a sublime culinary experience.

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4. The system by which candidates for local political offices are selected is archaic and, many contend, unfair.

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5. The abundance of companies that fail in their first year of business contribute to an intimidating economic climate.

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6. When scientists theorize about the traits that all humans have come to share, they must be keenly aware of the fact that these traits have evolved over millions of generations.

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7. The entire industry of tobacco companies and distributors has steadfastly maintained their position that tobacco is not addictive and that smoking is an inalienable right of consumers.

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8. The challenge of Mount Everest, its conquerors claim, is far more the lack of oxygen at its rarefied heights than even the precarious ice falls or precipitous ascents.

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9. One in every three Americans agree strongly with the statement: “Anyone who would run for political office is not worth voting for.”

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10. The fact that humans have committed so many atrocities have forced some historians to adopt a cynical perspective on human nature.

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Answer Key 2: Trimming Sentences

Concept Review 2

1. Prepositional phrases, interrupting phrases, and nonessential modifiers

2. Trimming reveals subject-verb disagreement errors and reveals how clear and forceful the sentence is.

3. Prepositions: of, beyond, for, with, without, along, below.

4. A prepositional phrase is a preposition and the noun or noun phrase that follows it.

5. Examples might include in the tree, without hesitation, beyond gimmicks, and over two million hungry customers.

6. The team were (change to wasmet.

7. The flock were (change to wassilver.

8. Carmen are (change to isunlikely to be swayed.

9. Trimmed: Advancements have to do with modifications.

The verb (have to do with) is weak, vague, and inactive, and the subject (advancements) and object (modification) are abstract and vague. To improve the sentence, think about the intended meaning of the sentence, and use stronger and less abstract terms. Here’s a good revision:

Typically, societies progress by making small modifications to their institutions, not by overhauling them completely.

10. Trimmed: The development was affected.

The verb (was affected) is weak, passive, and vague. Here’s a good revision:

The incohesiveness of the rebels hindered the development of the new government.


Worksheet 2

1. Juggling the demands seem (change to seemstoo much to bear.

2. Others is (change to areconcerned.

3. The demeanor are (change to iswhat makes dining there a sublime experience.

4. The system is archaic and unfair. (correct)

5. The abundance contribute (change to contributesto an intimidating climate.

6. They must be keenly aware that these traits have evolved over millions of generations. (correct)

7. The industry has maintained their (change to itsposition that tobacco is not addictive and that smoking is an inalienable right.

8. The challenge is far more the lack of oxygen than the precarious ice falls or precipitous ascents. (correct)

9. One agree (change to agreeswith the statement: “Anyone who would run for political office is not worth voting for.”

10. The fact have forced (change to has forcedsome.