THE SAT WRITING AND LANGUAGE TEST: THE TEN ESSENTIAL RULES
Rule 6: Make Your Comparisons Clear and Precise
Lesson 16: Make sure your comparisons are logical
Which is correct?
A. Not only is Anna the captain, but she also practices harder than anyone on the track team.
B. Not only is Anna the captain, but she also practices harder than anyone else on the track team.
Anna cannot work harder than she herself does, and she is on the track team, so the first comparison is illogical. It is logical, however, to say that she works harder than anyone else on the track team, so sentence B is correct.
Which is correct?
C. The turnout for this year’s art festival was even better than last year.
D. The turnout for this year’s art festival was even better than the turnout for last year’s festival.
The phrase even better indicates a comparison, but between what two things? In sentence C, this year’s turnout is being compared to last year. This is another type of illogical comparison called a category error: the two things being compared are not comparable things. Sentence D corrects this error because the turnout for last year’s festival is in the same category as the turnout for this year’s festival. Since this is an “apples-to-apples” comparison, sentence D is correct.
Make sure all of your comparisons are logical comparisons.
• Make sure that equivalent things are not treated as non-equivalent things. (For instance, Anna can’t practice harder than herself.)
• Make sure that non-comparable things are not treated as comparable things (For instance, this year’s turnout can’t be compared to last year, but it can be compared to last year’s turnout.)
Lesson 17: Know how to use less/fewer, many/much, or amount/number
Which is best?
A. To decrease the amount of violent conflicts among rival fans, the concession stands will sell less alcoholic drinks during the game.
B. To decrease the number of violent conflicts among rival fans, the concession stands will sell fewer alcoholic drinks during the game.
C. To decrease the amount of violence among rival fans, the concession stands will sell less alcohol during the game.
The terms less, much, and amount apply generally to uncountable or continuous quantities like traffic, money, and food. The terms fewer, many, and number apply generally to countable and discrete quantities like cars, dollars, and pizzas.
But what if the quantities are countable and continuous, like miles, gallons, or miles per gallon? For instance, would you say This car gets fewer miles per gallon or This car gets less miles per gallon? The answer depends on whether the context suggests you should emphasize the quantity’s countability (in which case you should use fewer) or its continuity (in which case you should use less). Of course, you could avoid the problem altogether by saying This car is less efficient.
Sentence A is problematic because it uses amount and less in reference to countable and discrete quantities, conflicts and alcoholic drinks. Sentence B corrects the problem by switching to number and fewer, but sentence C, which changes the quantities themselves to violence and alcohol, sounds more natural. The SAT will not expect you to choose between choices B and C on a multiple-choice question, because technically both are correct.
Exercise 8: Making Logical Comparisons
Correct any illogical comparisons in the sentences below.
1. The show was universally praised by critics, who said consistently that it was more intelligent and provocative than anything on the air.
2. Team unity and a strong work ethic were the key to their success.
3. Mathematics lessons in Japanese classrooms, unlike American classrooms, are often focused on solving a single complex problem rather than many simplistic problems.
4. The hybrid electric-combustion engines of the new cars are much quieter than conventional cars.
5. To the critics of the time, the surrealists were regarded as being as inscrutable, if not more so, than the Dadaists.
6. Modernist poetry was far less accessible to the readers of its time than was Shakespeare.
7. Her suitcase would not close because she had packed too much of her towels into it.
8. The year-end bonus was equally divided between Parker, Alyssa, and me.
9. Many students wanted to be a lifeguard at the club.
10. The toughest thing about her class is you have to do so much homework every night.