The GMAT has opinions on what types of phrases are wordier than others. Recognizing these patterns can help me make confident decisions on the test.
But these are NOT absolute rules. In fact, some (not all) published GMAT problems violate these rules. So use these rules for concision LAST – usually there are other issues besides concision to think about; concision won’t be the make-or-break.
You can rank parts of speech by “concision power”, using the following tool: DRIVE THE V-A-N
V-A-N = Verb > Adjective/Adverb > Noun
<<An active Verb is usually stronger and more concise than an Adjective or an action Noun.>>
The preferred form is usually what the author intended to say, so choosing this form helps to "crystallize" the meaning.
Wordy: They are subject to the applicability of rules.
Better: Rules apply to them.
Wordy: His conception of money was a goal.
Better: He conceived of money as a goal.
Wordy: Her decision was to go.
Better: She decided to go.
**Above, notice how nouns create wordy prep phrases.
**Don’t treat these patterns as a hard-and-fast rule. Use this concision rule last. There's probably other issues.
Concision (3/9) – VAN Pattern 2 – Prefer a That-Clause (with Verbs) to a Series of Phrases (with Nouns) (1/2)
Wordy: The hypothesis ABOUT the COMPOSITION OF the universe AS largely dark energy seems strange.
Better: The hypothesis THAT the universe IS largely COMPOSED OF dark energy seems strange.
When tacking on a long thought onto a noun, better to do so with a That-clause than a bunch of prep phrases
(1) When you are dealing with a noun that is lengthy because of a long thought, put the thought in a That-clause instead of a series of many prep phrases
(2) That-clauses start with “that” and contain a “Working Verb” (which is a verb that, as is, can be the main verb of a sentence). E.g. “Is composed”
(2a) That-clauses are the verb-form of the action, which is a special case of Pattern #1.
(3) A series of prepositional phrases is hard for people to grasp. Using verbs helps to make it easier to read.
The belief THAT the Earth is flat is contradicted by EVIDENCE THAT the Earth is round and the DISCOVERY THAT the Earth circles the Sun.
Wordy: This rash is aggravating to the pain.
Better: This rash aggravates the pain.
Wordy: We are able to go to the store now.
Better: We can go to the store now.
Wordy: This signal is indicative of a problem.
Better: This signal indicates a problem.
Wordy: Her example was inspirational to me.
Better: Her example inspired me.
Concision (6/9) – VAN Pattern 4 – Prefer an Adjective to a Noun
Wordy: THERE IS AN ABUNDANCE of funds for school construction.
Better: Funds for school construction ARE ABUNDANT.
To describe a noun or noun phrase (e.g. funds for school construction), use an adjective (abundant). Avoid the noun derived from that adjective if you can help it.
Wordy: She has the ability to juggle.
Better: She is able to juggle
Best: She can juggle.
Wordy: We have a disinclination to stay.
Better: We are disinclined to stay.
Wordy: He is in isolation.
Better: He is isolated.
(although here you want to be careful about changes in meaning between "isolated" and "in isolation")
Concision (7/9) – VAN Pattern 5 – Prefer an Adverb to a Prepositional Phrase
Wordy: Oil prices have fallen, but prices at the gas pump have not fallen TO A COMPARABLE EXTENT.
Better: Oil prices have fallen, but prices at the gas pump have not fallen COMPARABLY.
To modify a verb phrase (e.g. have not fallen) use a simple adverb rather than a long prepositional phrase that means the same thing. Prep phrases have nouns, so this still uses the VAN principle.
Another problem with the wordy expression above is about meaning. The phrase “Fall to” indicates the LEVEL to which it fell, rather than the EXTENT.
E.g. “Prices have fallen to under a dollar.”
Thus, you have a meaning issue here as well.
Wordy: Joan, WHO IS A FIREFIGHTER, works in Yosemite Park.
Better: Joan, a FIREFIGHTER, works in Yosemite Park.
Be careful with this pattern, since the GMAT does violate it from time to time. It is just a pattern, and all of these examples (both of them!) are correct and clear in meaning.
Concision (9/9) – Remove “it is…that…”
Wordy: IT IS without fear THAT children should play.
Better: Children should play without fear.
While both answers are fine, the GMAT avoids such constructions in correct answers. You should do the same.
Remember that the verb “to be” can have many other forms, including:
Over-concision (1/6) - Pattern #1: Keep prepositional phrase if you need to (1/3)
The GMAT likes to trick you into falsely making a sentence too concise!!
Don’t be so concise that you make phrases awkward and introduce new errors.
Too short: I talked to the Boston soldier.
Better: I talked to the soldier from Boston.
When you deal with a noun modified by a prepositional phrase, you COULD turn the prep phrase into a noun-adjective (which is a noun placed in front of another noun, and that functions as an adjective). This would shorten the whole expression...
+ Example: A wall of stone vs. a stone wall
+ BUT -- this works best when the preposition is “of”.
If the preposition is not “of” (as with the soldier example), then avoid collapsing the prep phrase!
Too short: Memorial Day week / Memorial Day’s week.
Better: the week OF Memorial Day
Too short: the merger year
Better: the year OF the merger
Too short: the honeybee population density / the honeybee population’s density
Better: the density OF the honeybee population
Right: Quinn did not eat dinner quickly, but her brother DID SO. (Quinn's brother "ate dinner quickly").
**Optionally, you could also omit “so”. This has the SAME EXACT MEANING.
Example: Quinn failed to do the homework, but her brother did it.
** “It” refers to the homework.
** You don’t have to use the verb do/did, you could also use something else, like “completed”, "ate", etc.
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