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SAT

Unit 11: Lesson 3

Writing: Grammar

Writing: Formal vs. casual language — Example

Watch Sal work through a harder style and tone question from the SAT Writing and Language Test..

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  • male robot hal style avatar for user Raivat Shah
    At first when I paused the video to do it my self (like Sal recommends everytime), I thought the second option would be the best choice, because:

    1. I thought the tone was not important here, since we do not have much information about who is saying this sentence to whom. It can be a student saying that to a parent or a friend (informal tone) or can be writing this in his/her diary (formal tone).

    2. I thought that the word 'emotions' (in the question) and 'sweet' correlate.
    (15 votes)
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    • hopper happy style avatar for user Soumy Gottipati
      I can see why you would think that, but you just need to remember that the reading/writing SAT portion (especially the redesigned version) is all based on context. Rather than discounting the rest of the passage because you don't know a lot about the speaker, you should analyze it for more clues as to the right answer. Ask yourself, "What level of vocabulary is being used, and what type of tone is the speaker using?"
      Try to imagine what situation you would envision someone to say that sort of thing - this will lead you to the correct answer choice. Remember - tone can change no matter the author/speaker; it all depends on the way he or she writes or speaks, and the rest of the passage can help you with that.

      As for "sweet", I think that it is slang for "good" or "awesome" rather than relating to emotions.
      (10 votes)
  • leafers seed style avatar for user Ayyub Shaffy
    can we also rule out the fourth option because it is too bulky and not to the point(compared with the no change option)?
    (7 votes)
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  • duskpin sapling style avatar for user Vanessa Williams
    How do you know when a question like this is asking for tone and not correction of the sentence?
    (4 votes)
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    • duskpin sapling style avatar for user Lin Gh.
      Most likely, in these kinds of questions, there won't be a grammatically incorrect sentence. While the correction of the sentence means that the sentence has (or doesn't have) a grammatical error and you have to correct it.
      (2 votes)
  • aqualine seed style avatar for user Marcia Kimenyembo
    The title of this video is Concision, Style and Tone but while I was practicing (after watching the videos for Concision, Style and Tone) it seemed to me that the key to finding the correct answer was to identify the tone used in the sentence than to be concise and to the point. So I am asking if Concision is really important here ? And also I was wondering if we can use a dictionary while taking the SAT test ? I am a non-native English and this is quite complicated for me as I don't always understand the meaning of the words and sentences.
    (2 votes)
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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user American Idiot
    Hi, there is a specific type of question on the SAT practice tests I take that I always get wrong (I usually only get 1 wrong on the entire writing section and 90% of the time it is this type of problem). It always goes like "Which choice best maintains the tone of the passage?"

    I usually have no difficulty in evaluating whether the passage is formal or informal but picking/evaluating the best answer choice is always the hard part. There's always a middle-of-the-road word that can be used (well, at least in my own opinion) in both formal and informal passages. Then, there's always an extreme option that I always feel like is too extreme (for instance, if I'm given what I perceive as a moderately formal passage, then this answer choice would be a very formal - like advanced vocab-type formal). I usually pick the middle-of-the-road option because I feel like there's nothing wrong with a regular word and I feel like it's wrong that a writer becomes too bombastic with their language usage. 75% of the time I pick incorrectly so I'm not sure how I should go about these type of problems. Fixing this problem would allow me to jump from averaging around 1570 to possibly a 1600 (if i don't make any other stupid mistakes)
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Ashley  Muniz
    will some questions be left the way they are?
    (1 vote)
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  • piceratops tree style avatar for user Tasnim Sifa
    how do you know what to look for?
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Pratheek
    In the first look I thought it would be the second choice but after your explanation it totally went in a different way
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Braeden Austria
    Based on the context the reader can infer how people would react in the situation, all answers other than B are not realistic to how people would react to this situation.
    (0 votes)
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Video transcript

- [Instructor] My English instructor teaches Richard Wright's "Black Boy" as a masterful example of how an author writes to reveal the emotions of the story's protagonist. All right, that seems like a reasonable way to write it, but let's look at the other choices. My English instructor talks about "Black Boy" like it's the best book ever, because the author writes to reveal the emotions of the story's protagonist. Well, the tone here just seems too informal. It might be how some folks talk, but it isn't how you would necessarily want to write, especially the rest of the sentence doesn't have that informal tone. You say writes to reveal the emotions of the story's protagonist. This right over here, this part over here isn't an informal tone. So it feels weird that the underlined part would be informal. So I would rule this one out. My English instructor can't get enough of Richard Wright's "Black Boy," because she thinks it's a sweet example of how an author writes to reveal the emotions of the story's protagonist. So this one feels even more informal, so this one's even more informal, more informal. You're saying because she thinks it's a sweet example. She can't get enough of Richard Wright's book. So this one I would definitely rule out. That's going an even more extreme. See, my English instructor revels in the exploration of race relations that Richard Wright employs in "Black Boy," because she luxuriates in an author who writes to reveal the emotions of the story's protagonist. So this choice over here actually just feels too official, too formal. It's going in the complete other direction, and they're unnecessarily using fancy words here. Revels in the exploration of race relations that Richard Wright employs in "Black Boy," because she luxuriates in an author. So that just seems a little bit over the top, a little bit too formal. So I would rule this out. The best tone is actually what they have. My English teacher teaches Richard Wright's "Black Boy" as a masterful example of how an author writes to reveal the emotions of the story's protagonist. And I wanna be clear. Any of these choices, the grammar is not correct. Sorry, the grammar isn't incorrect, but it's more about tone here, that we really just wanna hit the tone, that we're not too informal like these two choices right over here, like these two choices, and not too formal or kind of using too complex language or words or more complex than we need to. So I actually like it the way that it's written.