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Writing: Concision — Video lesson

David demonstrates a Concision question on the SAT Writing and Language test. Created by David Rheinstrom.

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Video transcript

- [Instructor] We are looking at question four here. Some commentators claim that there is an excess of too many pressing constraints on the federal budget to commit funds to federal land protection. And the three other choices are all similar versions of that underlined phrase. So this tells me that this is a concision question. Our goal is to eliminate redundancy, and redundancy is when a sentence or a phrase is unnecessarily wordy or repetitive. Essentially, if you see a sentence with two words that mean the same thing, you don't need to use both of them. And there are likely to be between three and five concision questions on your official SAT. And the errors that you'll find usually take one of five distinct forms. You can have compound verb phrases, like beavers construct and build dams in streams, so construct and build is the redundant part, redundant adjectives, like this large, huge elephant, redundant adverbs, like quietly, she silently entered, redundant nouns, like a symbol and representation of wealth, and redundant implied descriptors, like varied differences. Varied differences is redundant because differences already kind of implies variation. This category is a test of your ability to recognize repetition, of your ability to look at a choice and think, "Wow, that's really clunky." You wanna be able to identify repetition and understand accordingly that for a question like this, the shortest choice is usually the best choice. So let's take a look at our target sentence again. Some commentators claim that there is an excess of too many pressing constraints on the federal budget to commit funds to federal land protection. Whew, excess of too many immediately strikes me as clunky and repetitious. If I were just gonna edit this sentence, I'd say there is an excess of, or there are too many, because right now that's just too much at once. Excess of is redundant with too many. If I were gonna fix that sentence, I would just choose one. This doesn't neatly fit into our five categories because many is being used as an adjective to modify constraints, but it is still very awkward to look at. Let's go over to the choices, because excess of too many is the no change answer, and I think it's too clunky to stay, so I'm gonna eliminate that one. Our other choices, B, is too much of an excess of, yeah, that uses nearly the same construction, it's just in a slightly different order. I'm gonna cross that one off, too. Choice C, there are an abundance, too many pressing constraints. This is no good either because it's repeating that too many idea, right? Abundance and too many mean nearly the same thing, so let's cross that off. And that leaves us with choice D, which is not only the shortest choice, it's one of the predictions I had earlier for a neater, shorter version of the phrase. Now, a warning, there may be shorter answers that cut off important information, so don't just choose the shortest answer without reading it carefully. But in general, shorter is definitely better for questions like these. So, the strategy for completing concision questions hinges on your ability to identify repetition. Does the sentence use two synonyms when they could have used one word? Is an idea expressed twice, like each year, the Oscars are awarded annually. Each year and annually mean the same thing, right? So look out for repetition, and in general, shorter is better.