SAT Essay Tips: Grammar & Form
When writing the SAT essay, paying close attention to grammar and form will help you convey your thesis clearly and get your content message across without any ambiguity. A well-executed essay response not only should display sound organization, thorough development of ideas and critical thinking skills, but also should demonstrate proper language use, sentence structure and writing mechanics. While effective development of a writer’s viewpoint and coherent discussion of key ideas are framed at the paragraph level, grammar usage and accuracy need to be scrutinized at the sentence level so that your meaning is clearly expressed and precise.
The following are some helpful hints to ensure your grammar and form are correct:
Subject – verb agreement: Make sure that the subject in every sentence agrees with the verb. In longer sentences, the verb can be quite distant from the subject; therefore, it is important to identify the subject and know whether it is singular and plural. Knowing your countable and non-countable nouns for use as subjects is also helpful. Writing in the past tense can help to avoid subject-verb agreement errors and reduce the amount of checking for agreement. As a rule, the object of a preposition should not be used as a subject. For example, “One of the team members involved in the project is extremely well qualified for the job.”
Pronouns: A pronoun must refer precisely to a noun or proper noun and it, whether singular or plural, must agree with that noun. Where writers run into trouble is when multiple nouns are used and the pronoun or possessive pronoun reference that follows in the latter part of the sentence becomes ambiguous. If in doubt, instead of using a pronoun to refer to the noun, re-use the noun.
Misplaced modifier: A phrase or noun can often be used to begin a sentence and describe the subject and the subject/noun should be placed right next to the phrase it modifies. E.g., “Living only a block away from John’s house, Jennifer had no reservations about collecting the mail for him while he was on holidays.”
Parallelism: Using parallel construction in a sentence means that two or more ideas follow similar or parallel grammatical forms. For instance, two infinitive (to be) verbs or gerund (-ing) verbs should be used in the same form in a sentence. Here are two examples: “Seeing is believing.” “The two main goals of our organization are to design a user-friendly system for our shoppers and to provide on-going support to our customers.
Voice: Use the appropriate active or passive voice in your sentences. Active voice is often used when the subject performs the action. Passive voice can be used when the object of the sentence needs to be emphasized or the subject is not known or not required to be identified in the sentence. Using the right voice can help you gain marks on sentence variety and style. For example, “The racquet struck the ball hard.” “Peter was selected by the committee to spearhead the project.” “Eating and drinking are not allowed.”
To score well on the SAT essay requires you to stick to correct grammar usage and form. Being aware of the above points will certainly improve your writing. Watch this spot for more tips on the SAT.