This is the third installment in a series of articles about patterns of concision on the GMAT Sentence Correction. Last time, we covered how verbs are preferable to adjectives and how adjectives are preferable to nouns.
Adverb > Prepositional Phrase
If a sentence tries to modify a verb phrase, it’s generally preferable to use an adverb rather than a clunky prepositional phrase.
Prepositional Phrase (Wordy): As a result of economic downturn, unemployment rates have increased to a significant degree.
Adverb (Preferable): As a result of economic downturn, unemployment rates have increased significantly.
Clearly, the phrase “to a significant degree” is a wordy, and should be replaced with “significantly.” Phrases like “to a significant degree” and “to a considerable extent“ should be replaced with the adverbs “significantly” and “considerably,” respectively.
Adjective > Adjective w/ To Be Verb
When using an adjective to describe a noun, avoid the unnecessary use of an adjective clause with the verb to be (e.g. She is a dentist who is reliable.) Instead, just use an adjective to describe the noun you are modifying (e.g. She is a reliable dentist).
Adjective Clause w/ To Be (Wordy): Jack is a policeman who is courageous.
Adjective (Preferable): Jack is a courageous policeman.
Make sure to do the same with phrases set off in commas:
Wordy: Jack, who is a policeman, is known for his courage.
Preferable: Jack, a policeman, is known for his courage.
In general, if you can eliminate an unnecessary to be verb, you should do so.
Avoid “It is…that”
The construction “it is…that,” as in the sentence “It is curiosity that killed the cat,” is generally used to emphasize the noun that functions as the sentence’s subject. Although the construction is grammatical, and can even be rhetorically effective if used sparingly, the GMAT considers the construction wordy because the meaning is not changed when you remove it.
Wordy: It is rationality that served as the guiding intellectual principle during the Age of Enlightenment.
Preferable: Rationality served as the guiding intellectual principle during the Age of Enlightenment.
Remember, though wordiness is a very common error on the GMAT, it is still does not take precedent over more serious grammatical problems. As always, fundamental grammar errors should be eliminated before stylistic improvements can be made.
Read other articles in this series: