SAT Writing: Combining Sentences

You’ll typically get two questions that ask you to choose the best way of combining two sentences. Below are examples of the most common ways of doing so. Of course, the best strategy will depend on the sentences you’re working with. You’ve seen a lot of these before in previous chapters.

Use a trailing phrase

This method is by far the most commonly tested.

Example 1
Before:To get the gun-control law passed, the President pointed out the numerous shootings that happen every year. He illustrated the dangers of having few restrictions.
After:To get the gun-control law passed, the President pointed out the numerous shootings that happen every year, illustrating the dangers of having few restrictions.
Example 2
Before:Students often see the complex theorems of physics as useless and tiresome. They don’t know that every piece of modern technology is founded on the discoveries of quantum physics.
After:Students often see the complex theorems of physics as useless and tiresome, not knowing that every piece of modern technology is founded on the discoveries of quantum physics.
Example 3
Before:The monkey was tied down because other animals were distracted by its eating habits. It was not because of its tendency to escape.
After:The monkey was tied down because other animals were distracted by its eating habits, not because of its tendency to escape.
Example 4
Before:Inside the dusty cabinet was a map of the Underground Railroad. It was a network of underground tunnels slaves once used to escape from the South.
After:Inside the dusty cabinet was a map of the Underground Railroad, a network of underground tunnels slaves once used to escape from the South.

2. Use a preposition

Example 5
Before:Joseph finished his homework. His teacher helped him.
After:Joseph finished his homework with the help of his teacher.
Example 6
Before:He is one of the fastest runners in the world. His accomplishments are demonstrated by his numerous world records.
After:He is one of the fastest runners in the world as demonstrated by his numerous world records.

3. Turn one of them into a dependent clause or modifier

Example 7
Before:Jacob has decided to avoid snacks and soda. The reason for the diet is that he wants to lose weight.
After: Because he wants to lose weight, Jacob has decided to avoid snacks and soda.
Example 8
Before:The giant panda is the rarest bear in the world today. It has large, distinctive, black patches around its eyes, strong jaw muscles, and a long tail.
After: The rarest bear in the world today, the giant panda has large, distinctive, black patches around its eyes, strong jaw muscles, and a long tail.

4. Use a conjunction

Example 9
Before:On the surface, Seinfeld is most famous for its light-hearted dialogue. Included among the many episodes is an assortment of comments on racism, homosexuality, and death.
After:On the surface, Seinfeld is most famous for its light-hearted dialogue, but included among the many episodes is an assortment of comments on racism, homosexuality, and death.

5. Link two verbs with and

Example 10
Before:The people sitting in front of me on the train were talking throughout the ride. They would not turn their cell phones off even after being told to do so.
After:The people sitting in front of me on the train were talking throughout the ride and would not turn their cell phones off even after being told to do so.

6. Use a relative clause

Example 11
Before:John Durgin worked as an accountant for ten years and then became a math teacher. He first learned to calculate in his head by reciting multiplication tables at home.
After:John Durgin, who worked as an accountant for ten years and then became a math teacher, first learned to calculate in his head by reciting multiplication tables at home.
Example 12
Before:Every car is powered by an engine. The engine converts fuel and heat into mechanical motion.
After:Every car is powered by an engine, which converts fuel and heat into mechanical motion.

7. Use an infinitive to express purpose

Example 13
Before:The little boy happily ran home. He would tell his mom he had found the last golden ticket.
After:The little boy happily ran home to tell his mom he had found the last golden ticket.

Here are some tips and guidelines:

1. The less pronouns, the better (especially this, these, they, it)

Note the pronoun it in the following example.

Example 14
The arctic owl’s coat of snow-white feathers acts as camouflage. It keeps the owl hidden by blending the animal in with its surroundings.
 

A) NO CHANGE
B) camouflage, and it keeps
C) camouflage; it keeps
D) camouflage, keeping

Answer D is the best because it avoids using the unnecessary pronoun it.

Nearly all the examples in the strategy section above involve unnecessary pronouns.

2. Keep the intended meaning

Don’t combine sentences in such a way that the intended meaning is altered.

Example 15
Chinese families get ready for Mid-Autumn Festival by doing several things. They light lanterns, prepare mooncakes, and arrange flowers.
 

A) NO CHANGE
B) Chinese families get ready for Mid-Autumn Festival to light lanterns, prepare mooncakes, and arrange flowers.
C) Chinese families get ready for Mid-Autumn Festival by lighting lanterns, preparing mooncakes, and arranging flowers.
D) Chinese families get ready for Mid-Autumn Festival for lighting lanterns, preparing mooncakes, and arranging flowers.

Notice how answers B and D change the intended meaning. Chinese families don’t get ready for the Festival in order to light lanterns, prepare mooncakes, and arrange flowers. That would be backwards. They get ready for the Festival by lighting lanterns, preparing mooncakes, and arranging flowers. Those activities are HOW they get ready, not WHY they get ready. The answer is C.

3. Avoid repeated words

Alarm bells should go off anytime you see repeated words.

Example 16
The restaurant was highly recommended by the food critics. These critics stayed there for four hours to savor every dish.
 

A) NO CHANGE
B) critics, who
C) critics, and these critics
D) critics after the critics

The answer is B because it doesn’t repeat critics.

4. The less words, the better

This is a general rule of thumb. More words imply complexity and when you’re combining sentences, you’re trying to make things less complicated, not more.

Example 17
The new hardware runs at a faster rate when compared to the old one. This increased speed reduces costs in our technology department, where we have the most overhead.
 

A) NO CHANGE
B) When compared to the old one, the new hardware runs at a faster rate, which reduces costs in our technology department, where we have the most overhead.
C) The new hardware runs at a faster rate when compared to the old one, and this increased speed reduces costs in our technology department, where we have the most overhead.
D) The new hardware runs at a faster rate when compared to the old one; by increasing the speed, we reduce costs in our technology department, where we have the most overhead.

Answers A, C, and D are all wordy compared to answer B. The words increased speed are unnecessary and should be cut out.

In general, the answer will usually involve the fewest number of words and the least amount of effort, which means you should be eliminating words, not adding them. This is the over-arching guideline that all the above guidelines fall under—take it to heart.

 
 
 

  1. Water filters are designed to handle any tap water that flows through. They eliminate the chlorine and bacteria growth that affect the taste of drinking water and also cause infections in humans.

    A) through; they can eliminate
    B) through, which is eliminating
    C) through, eliminating
    D) through, so they eliminate

  2. Many of the courses in law schools today are purely theoretical exercises. These exercises have little to do with their initial purpose.

    A) exercises that
    B) exercises, so they
    C) exercises; they
    D) exercises, being so these

  3. In addition to farming crops, slaves in Egypt during the rise of Mesopotamia had the mundane tasks of cleaning the house. They also cooked the food.

    A) house, but also cooked the food.
    B) house and cooking the food.
    C) house, and the food was cooked by them.
    D) house and food being cooked.

  4. Language opens the door to other perspectives. What’s given to us is the means to apprehend other ways of viewing our common world and our common humanity.

    A) Language opens the door to other perspectives while giving to us the means
    B) Language opens the door to other perspectives by giving us the means
    C) By opening the door to other perspectives through language, we are given the means
    D) Although language opens the door to other perspectives, we are given the means

  5. Today’s restaurants’ ordering systems maximize efficiency both in the kitchen and behind the counter. Many of which have expanded their seating spaces to accommodate the increasing number of customers.

    A) Today’s restaurants’ ordering systems maximize efficiency both in the kitchen and behind the counter; seating spaces have been expanded by them to accommodate the increasing number of customers.
    B) Ordering systems maximize efficiency both in the kitchen and behind the counter; many restaurants have expanded their seating spaces in the accommodation of the increasing number of customers.
    C) Ordering systems maximizing efficiency both in the kitchen and behind the counter are why many restaurants have expanded their seating spaces, accommodating the increasing number of customers.
    D) Today’s restaurants, whose ordering systems maximize efficiency both in the kitchen and behind the counter, have expanded their seating spaces to accommodate the increasing number of customers.

Want more questions? Our SAT Writing Advanced Guide and Workbook contains over 500 additional practice questions (grouped by topic) and 3 practice tests.
 
 
 

  1. C
  2. A
  3. B
  4. B
  5. D

 
 
 

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